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Tuesday, May 19, 1998 Published at 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK


India to probe radiation claims

The Indian government released pictures of the test sites

The authorities in the Indian state of Rajasthan are to investigate allegations that people living near the Pokhran nuclear test site are showing signs of radiation sickness.

The India government said there was no atmospheric fall-out from last week's series of tests. But reports from the desert area around Pokhran say villagers are complaining of skin irritation, nose bleeds and nausea.

Local doctors say an intense heatwave may account for the symptoms, but the villagers point out that there were similar illnesses when India conducted its last nuclear test programme at Pokhran in 1974.

"No panic", says India

On the diplomatic front meanwhile, India moved on Monday to dispel an impression of escalating tension with its neighbours.


[ image: Protesting in Calcutta against the tests]
Protesting in Calcutta against the tests
The deputy chairman of the country's planning commission, Jaswant Singh, told a news conference no one was threatened by the Indian tests, and expressed hope for better ties with China and Pakistan. There was "no panic" in the region, he said.

As the West moved to put pressure on Pakistan not to stage its own retaliatory nuclear test, Singh said Islamabad had as much right as India to safeguard national security.

"India can scarcely deny to Pakistan that which it claims for itself, which is equal and legitimate security interests," he said.

Pressure on Pakistan

The international pressure on Pakistan not to follow India with tests continued in Islamabad, with the delivery of a message from the Japanese Prime Minister, Ryutaro Hashimoto, urging the utmost restraint in Pakistan's reaction to last week's tests by India.

Japan announced a severe cutback in aid to Delhi in response to the tests, and the BBC Islamabad correspondent says Monday's message could mean Pakistan that it may expect a similar reaction if it conducts any tests.

Earlier, the Secretary-General of the United Nations appealed to Pakistan not to follow India in testing nuclear weapons.

Kofi Annan said he hoped other nations would support Pakistan, by offering assurances on its security.

In Britain, world leaders at the G8 summit warned of the prospect of a new nuclear arms race. They condemned India's actions in the final communiqué of their annual summit, but failed to agree on a proposal, by the US, Canada and Japan, to impose sanctions on India.





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