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Tuesday, 25 April, 2000, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Kosovo munitions crisis denied
British troops
British troops suffered "critical munitions shortage" says report
The government has denied allegations that British forces nearly ran out of ammunition during the Kosovo campaign, saying that servicemen and women were never in any danger.

Kosovo: Special Report
Junior defence minister Dr Lewis Moonie told the BBC that there was "no question" that the army was on the verge of running out of any munitions during the conflict last year.

The government's defence comes after a National Audit Office report leaked to the BBC said that there had been a "critical munitions shortage" and that the Royal Air Force could have run out of precision-guided bombs if the air campaign had continued.

The Ministry of Defence has already been under scrutiny after an earlier leak revealed that some soldiers borrowed guns from other members of the international ground force, K-For, and operational command had been hampered by poor communications and equipment failures.

But speaking to BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Dr Moonie dismissed the leak as a first draft of a report and that some of its facts had been "misinterpreted".

The supply chain had been deliberately organised so that munitions were delivered to the theatre of battle as and when they were needed in order to save money," he said.

"The Kosovo campaign was a success," he said. "We achieved our objectives and stopped the killings."

"There was no question of the RAF running out of bombs or any other munitions.

"The information I have been given by the RAF is that they were not in danger of running out of any munitions."

'Medical shortages'

According to the leaked NAO report, thousands of essential medicines, including the battlefield painkiller morphine, had past their use-by date by the time they reached British troops in Kosovo.

And commanders' desperate pleas for secure radios were dismissed by the MoD as "not relevant", the report found.

But Dr Moonie denied that troops had run out of morphine, saying: "Medical supplies were not out of date.

"They had a month to run and we had new supplies of morphine ordered. They turned out to be sub-standard.

"We checked and discovered that it was perfectly all right to extend the shelf-life. There was no question of any danger or any problem.

"If there are any lessons to be learnt from Kosovo then they will be taken on board."

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