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The BBC's Lucy Atherton
"The Veterans Association hope the march will become an annual event"
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The BBC's James Helm
"The sick veterans want to secure war pensions, compensation and a full inquiry"
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Saturday, 24 February, 2001, 18:16 GMT
New demand for Gulf War inquiry
Marchers heading to the Cenotaph
The marchers walked to the Cenotaph
Gulf War veterans from across Britain have taken part in a "March of Tears" in London on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the conflict.

About 80 serving and former soldiers and families of the dead were led by two young children carrying laurel branches as signs of peace.

They marched down Whitehall and laid wreaths at the Cenotaph in memory of the 526 Britons who died during the conflict or through Gulf War-related illnesses.

Shaun Rusling, chairman of the National Gulf War Veterans and Families Association, said the group had also gathered as part of the campaign for medical and financial help they needed to deal with the problems the war had caused them.

I am sure Steve's illness was caused by the Gulf War yet the government refuse to do anythng about it

Gulf War widow
"Our ultimate aim is to get proper care for victims of the Gulf War because if this country wants to send people to fight for them, it is their responsibility to look after them when they return if they get ill," he declared.

Stephen Childs, 44, was an engineer during the war and died from multiple cancers.

His widow Karen, 43, from south Wales, said: "It makes me so angry that nothing is being done to help us.

"I am sure Steve's illness was caused by the Gulf War yet the government refuse to do anythng about it."

Public inquiry

The act of remembrance took place as The Royal British Legion renewed its call for a public inquiry into the possible effects of depleted uranium weapons on veterans and other members of the armed forces.

Larry Cammock, chairman of The Royal British Legion Gulf War Veterans' Branch, said medical evidence that the deaths were a result of the war had been obtained from Canada because the British authorities were not carrying out the proper tests.

"We would like the governent to carry out a public inquiry into finding out just what did happen and what can be done about it," he said.

Children in march
They were led by two children
"Public inquiries are held for train crashes and BSE but when 49 people have been killed in a war and 479 lives lost as a result of that war, they still refuse to carry out an investigation."

Almost one in 20 of the 50,000 troops who served in the Gulf had made war pensions applications for Gulf War-related illnesses or disabilities, he added.

The legion, which jointly organised the march, expects it to become an annual event.

Many veterans suspect they could have been caused by depleted uranium weapons or multiple vaccinations to protect against biological warfare.

'No evidence'

An MoD spokeswoman said: "We keep an open mind towards Gulf veterans illnesses. There is no medical evidence directly linking either vaccinations or depleted uranium to weapons."

She said a medical assessment programme had been set up for those worried about illnesses. So far about 3,000 people have attended those clinics.

Consultation had also begun on introducing depleted uranium screening for Gulf and Balkans war veterans, said the spokeswoman.

Such tests could be done through the existing assessment programme if symptoms dictated, although none of the five cases undertaken had proved positive for uranium.

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See also:

24 Feb 01 | Americas
No Gulf War regrets for leaders
17 Jan 01 | Media reports
Saddam's Gulf War anniversary speech
16 Jan 01 | Middle East
The Gulf War: 10 years on
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