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|Monday, January 15, 2001, updated at 08:31(GMT+8)|
Britain Says to Take Action if Depleted Uranium Cause IllnessBritain will take appropriate action if it finds clear evidence of a link between depleted uranium (DU) ammunition and illness, Defense Secretary Geoffrey Hoon said on Sunday.
"The reason why we will continue to use these weapons is that they are astonishingly effective and in that sense are protecting British forces in time of war. If we do find clear scientific evidence that leads us to suspect there is a link between their use and illness, then we would take an appropriate decision," Hoon told Sky News television.
He insisted it would "not be appropriate" to put British lives at risk "in the absence of such evidence".
British Ministry of Defense agreed last week to screen voluntary veteran soldiers who served in the Balkans to see whether they were in danger of risking their lives after using depleted uranium ammunition.
The ministry also announced on Friday that the British Royal Navy was phasing out DU ammunition after the U.S. manufacturers stopped producing the shells because of concern over the safety of the uranium ammunition, linked by ex-military personnel to certain types of cancer.
"We've always recognized that there was a limited risk to the use of depleted uranium weapons. We have always instructed the members of the armed forces accordingly," Hoon said earlier.
"Beyond that specified, limited risk, there are no risks associated with depleted uranium and certainly no proven link between its use and any illness. The best scientific evidence we have been able to secure indicates that there is no link between the consequences of the use of depleted uranium and any specific illness," he said.
Depleted uranium can penetrate enemy armor better than conventional munitions and can therefore be fired from a greater distance, sometimes beyond enemy range.
Veterans groups and families of soldiers are blaming the use of DU munitions by NATO troops for a spate of cancer cases among former Balkan peacekeepers.
But both Washington and London maintain that there is no scientific evidence to prove DU cause cancer.
British Defense Secretary Say DU Has "Limited Risk"British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said on Sunday that there was a "limited risk" associated with depleted uranium (DU) ammunition, but he insisted at the same time that there was no proof that it had actually caused illness.
The remarks were made after DU ammunition, which were used by Britain and the United States in the 1991 Gulf War and in a series of NATO air attacks over in the Balkans in 1999, has been blamed in Britain and some other NATO countries for leukaemia deaths among Balkan peacekeepers.
"We've always recognized that there was a limited risk to the use of depleted uranium weapons and we have always instructed members of the armed forces accordingly," Hoon told the Sky Television here.
"But beyond that particular specified risk...there are no risks associated with the use of depleted uranium, and certainly no proven link between its use and any illness," he said.
The defense secretary also said Britain would continue to use DU weapons because they were "astonishingly effective" and protected British forces in war.
He said Britain had, since the Gulf War, consistently instructed troops not to go into places where they knew depleted uranium shells had been used without appropriate protective clothing.
Britain agreed last week to screen soldiers who had served in the Balkans, after repeatedly saying for a long period of time that DU ammunition had no danger to soldiers.
The Ministry of Defense had insisted that extensive research including large-scale studies of Gulf War veterans in the United States had not established any health risk to troops.
NATO and the United States had also insisted that there is no evidence of a link between the use of DU weapons and the cases of leukaemia in troops who have served in the Balkans.
But British media reported several cases of veteran soldiers who found themselves feel uneasy and had the so-called "Balkans Syndrome" after tours of duty in Kosovo and Bosnia. The soldiers had demanded the ministry of defense to investigate the cases and publish the results.
Cases of cancer have also been reported among soldiers from Italy, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and other NATO member countries.
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