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Sunday, November 7, 1999 Published at 08:26 GMT


Gulf veterans snub government

Gulf war veterans feel betrayed by the government

A Gulf War veterans' association has broken off links with the government after accusing officials of "leaving old soldiers to die".

The BBC's Helen Callaghan: "It's still not known exactly why they're ill"
The National Gulf Veterans and Families Association represents hundreds of soldiers suffering from so-called Gulf War Syndrome.

They decided to sever links with Ministry of Defence medical experts and officials amid claims that tests to establish the extent of radiation poisoning in veterans were worthless.

The organisation's chairman, Shaun Rusling, wrote to the Armed Forces minister John Spellar to inform of their frustration and their belief that "enough was enough."

Spokesman Tony Flint told the BBC they had taken the decision they could no longer trust the MoD and the Medical Assessment Programme. Mr Flint said this was because gulf veterans and their GPs were being misled as far as treatment was concerned.

Allegation 'justified'

Asked about the veterans' claim that officials were leaving old soldiers to die he insisted the allegation was justified.

"By feeding GPs the wrong information on how to treat, or what is wrong with Gulf veterans, the GP can not treat the gulf veteran properly, so ultimately, he is going to die," he said.

Mr Flint said in future they would get their information from experts who were sympathetic to them both in the UK and in Canada, the USA and New Zealand.

The veterans say they have been betrayed by the government.

"Their idea of the truth and the truth are two different things," said Mr Flint, who claimed there was evidence that medical records sent to GPs had been tampered with.

Urged to reconsider

An MoD spokesman urged the veterans to reconsider their decision.

"We have received the letter and will be responding to it shortly," the spokesman said.

"We do not consider that what they are proposing is in their best interest. We have maintained an open dialogue with the veterans and have an ongoing programme of investigation into why some members of the Gulf war are now ill."

But Mr Flint said the only way forward for veterans was to find out the truth for themselves.

He said although veterans had had a number of meetings with Government officials, the talks had been largely unproductive.

"It's a case of them saying `hello boys, how are you today?' and then leaving it at that."

Mr Flint said he believed two veterans were now dying every week from illnesses associated with the Gulf war.

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