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Friday, 12 January, 2001, 17:13 GMT
German soldiers 'not affected' by DU
German KFOR soldier
German soldiers 'safer' than local people
A study commissioned by the German Ministry of Defence has shown that soldiers deployed in the Balkans were not affected by exposure to depleted uranium (DU).

The GSF research centre for environment and health tested 121 German soldiers before and during their deployment with K-For troops in Kosovo.

"All measurements of uranium were around levels we would expect from groups which have not been exposed," said radiation expert Paul Roth.

Researchers warned, however, that the local population could face a potential health risk of chemical and toxic effects which derive from the heavy metal properties of DU.

Germany has demanded a moratorium on the use of DU weapons until further research has been carried out.

Depleted uranium has been blamed for a number of leukaemia cases among former peacekeepers.

'No link'

Six cases of blood-related illness have been registered by German soldiers returning from the Balkans.

Researchers say a link between the illnesses and DU cannot be made as, given the numbers of troops deployed, between seven and 10 cases are statistically to be expected.

GSF lab
A researcher tests for the effects of DU
The study tested urine samples from 121 German soldiers as well as a population of 200 non-exposed people from various regions of Germany.

In addition 50 aid workers, OSCE police officers and members of the local population were tested.

While no link between DU and illness in soldiers was found, the study said that action should be taken to prevent a potential danger to the local population, particularly children, who may play in areas where DU weapons exploded, releasing toxic chemicals.

The World Health Organisation also said on Friday that a link between leukaemia and DU was "unlikely", but that targeted areas should be cordoned off due to "remaining uncertainties".

DU moratorium

The research has led to suggestions that the German defence minister, Rudolf Scharping was "overly defensive" in calling for a moratorium on the use of DU weapons.

But on Friday, Norway and Finland declared their support for the temporary ban.

Nato aircraft fired tens of thousands of DU rounds during its 1995 bombing of Bosnian Serb targets and 1999 air war against Yugoslavia.

DU rounds are denser than standard ammunition, making them more effective against armour, but the dust given off on impact can be dangerous.

On Wednesday, Nato announced a range of measures to try to allay concerns over DU munitions. Its Secretary-General, Lord Robertson, insists that fears are misplaced and says there will be no suspension of the use of the weapons.

For their part, Yugoslav experts have said they have found radioactivity levels more than 1,000 times greater than usual in Serbia and Montenegro.

Six Italian soldiers, five Belgians, two Dutch nationals, two Spaniards, a Portuguese and a Czech national have died after serving in the Balkans. Four French soldiers and five Belgians have also contracted leukaemia.

However, Russia says initial screening has found no illness among its soldiers who served in the Balkans.


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08 Jan 01 | Europe
10 Jan 01 | Europe
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