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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 22:17 GMT
Peers call for Gulf inquiry
Soldier serving in Kosovo
Veterans of Kosovo will be offered health checks
Members of the House of Lords have called for a public inquiry into so-called Gulf War illnesses.

They have also called for veterans of the 1991 war to be included in the health screening programme announced by ministers last week.


The Gulf veterans appear to be excluded from screening

Lord Morris
The screening programme is being set up following fears of the health effects of coming into contact with depleted uranium (DU) weapons.

Ministers have denied that there is a link between DU and cancer but have set up the programme as a way of allaying fears.

Incomprehensible

But a Labour peer said it would be "incomprehensible" and "deplorable" not to also give health checks to veterans of the Gulf war which began 10 years ago this week.

Lord Morris of Manchester, parliamentary adviser to the Royal British Legion and a former minister for the disabled, said: "DU shells were heavily deployed in Bosnia and Kosovo, and so were they in the Gulf.

"The Gulf veterans appear to be excluded from screening by last Monday's announcement."

Lord Morris reminded peers that 452 Gulf War veterans had died in the past 10 years including 83 who had committed suicide.

He urged ministers to meet in full its "debt of honour" to the veterans and their relatives.

He said more than 5,000 UK and 100,000 US veterans had reported illnesses, often within weeks of the end of the Gulf conflict. Some 4,000 UK veterans had claimed war pensions.

His call was echoed by the Royal British Legion and the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association.

They urged ministers to act over mystery illnesses they say have hit many of those who helped liberate Kuwait.

Public inquiry

The association also renewed their call on the government to launch a public inquiry into the effects of radioactive depleted uranium (DU) weapons.

And it launched an appeal to fund care and DU testing for sick veterans it claims have been abandoned by successive defence ministers.

The Royal British Legion urged Ministers not to wait for a link between DU shells and serious illnesses to be proved before setting up a public inquiry.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
Geoff Hoon praised soldiers who servied in the Gulf
"The government could remedy its past failure to act openly in the interests of veterans and families," the Legion said in a statement.

"An Inquiry would also help to restore confidence within the Armed Services and provide veterans and service people with the same level of treatment received in the US where a Presidential Commission was set up."

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon marked the anniversary of the conflict by praising the effort of the armed forces at the time.

He also claimed sanctions and the Iraqi No Fly Zones, patrolled by allied fighter planes, were working.

Iraq had stopped using chemicals on the Kurd minority and Iran or fired Scud missiles at Saudi Arabia or Israel since they had been in place, Mr Hoon said.

"That is why Britain will continue to support sanctions and the No Fly Zones until Iraq no longer represents a threat," the Defence Secretary said.

"This anniversary should be a reminder to us all of why it is as necessary to contain the Iraqi threat now as it was 10 years ago."

However, hundreds of demonstrators opposed to sanctions were expected to gather in central London to campaign against the policy.

The protesters from several groups - including the controversial Reclaim the Streets organisation and CND - plan to gather outside the House of Commons and Scotland Yard is stepping up security around Westminster.

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14 Jan 01 | UK
Hoon backs DU weapons
12 Jan 01 | UK
UK considers DU testing
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