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Wednesday, 10 January, 2001, 16:37 GMT
Bosnia to set up uranium commission
rounds left behind in a Sarajevo suburb
American jets fired these DU anti-tank rounds
By the BBC's Alix Kroeger in Sarajevo

Bosnia's State Council of Ministers is to set up a working group to co-ordinate information about the possible effects of depleted uranium (DU).

Nato fired more than 10,000 rounds of DU ammunition during the air strikes in 1994 and 1995.

Peacekeepers from several countries - including Italy, Germany and France - have fallen ill with leukaemia since they served in the Balkans.

Now Bosnia is to ask Nato for a map of locations where DU ammunition was used.

There's little information available in Bosnia about the possible effects of what's now being called Balkan Syndrome, and what little there is goes unshared between the two halves of the post-war state - the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb republic, Republika Srpska.

Co-ordinating council

The State Council of Ministers has decided that the new working group will take in and co-ordinate statistics from both the post-war entities.

Bosnian government officials
Measuring radiation levels outside Sarajevo
Figures for the Muslim-Croat Federation show a sharp increase in cancer-related illnesses, but officials caution that could just be due to better reporting.

Speaking after Wednesday's meeting, the chairman of the Council of Ministers, Martin Raguz, said there was a growing incidence of cancer and leukaemia but it was not known whether this was related to depleted uranium.

WHO request

The Council has also asked Nato for a map of locations where DU ammunition was used and is also asking the World Health Organisation for its help.

The Nato-led Stabilisation Force, Sfor, says DU ammunition poses a negligible hazard, putting troops and the local population at no greater risk than people anywhere else.

Mr Raguz also said the Council didn't appreciate the name Balkan Syndrome because of the negative image it gives of the region, and he said it was important for Bosnia to deal with the issue itself because of the damage it could do to the country's reputation.

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See also:

10 Jan 01 | Europe
Nato seeks to calm DU fears
09 Jan 01 | Europe
The military uses of DU
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