The Guardian January 31, 2001


DU the unpunished war crime

by Mati English

The storm of anger over the use of depleted uranium (DU) shells by NATO 
forces continues and, if anything, is becoming stronger. Feeble attempts to 
hide the truth have spectacularly backfired as the extent of the use of DU 
weapons and their impact becomes more evident. Most of the focus, however, 
is on the NATO servicemen who have been affected, the impact on the people 
of Yugoslavia receiving little public attention.

Protests and demonstrations continue in Greece. Greek military serving in 
the Balkans have been allowed to return home without fear of reprisal (see 
world item).

Portuguese police demanded the withdrawal of their officers from Kosovo 
after they were told by the UN not to have children for two years because 
of the threat of DU contamination and consequent birth defects.

At NATO headquarters in Brussels, the USA and Britain rejected Italy's 
proposal (backed by Germany) that the 19 NATO member countries put a 
moratorium on the use of DU shells.

The United Nations is not coming out of it smelling of roses either.

The UN's own environment program last year called for all possible DU sites 
in Kosovo to be sealed off from public access so as to protect children and 
other civilians from harm.

Bernard Kouchner, who heads the UN administration in Kosovo said that there 
was no radiation  clearly contradicting the UN's own expert advice on the 
issue and no need to mark the sites.

The UN also failed to act on the devastating consequences of the use of DU 
shells in Iraq.

The Yugoslav Government has taken a number of measures to protect its 
population from the dangers of the depleted uranium.

The eight sites in southern Serbia where up to 5,000 NATO shells landed 
have been marked. The Yugoslav Government has no access (thanks to NATO and 
the UN) to the 100 sites in Kosovo where 31,000 shells fell.

The head of Russia's Defence Ministry international relations said that "it 
is extremely important that NATO countries pay attention, not only to the 
damage which may have been caused to the health of servicemen in the Kosovo 
operation, but to all damage caused in Yugoslavia  to its people and 
ecology.

"The US and its NATO allies, who unleashed the dirty war against a 
sovereign Yugoslavia and carried out barbaric bomb attacks against Yugoslav 
districts and cities, must bear the entire moral and material 
responsibility for dealing with consequences of this aggression, including 
the impact on the environment", Colonel General Ivashov said.

He also pointed out that radiation and contamination of the water table 
could render large parts of Kosovo uninhabitable.

Russian air force commander General Anatoly Kornukov rejected US claims 
that DU weaponry was harmless to the environment and human beings. "All 
statements by the US administration officials, including (former) Secretary 
of State Madeleine Albright, are aimed at dilettantes".

General Kornukov also said that US used DU shells in Kosovo, not so much 
for combat purposes but in order to get rid of them.

"There was the dumping of ammunition, which was supposed to be recycled, 
but recycling costs much more than dumping during air raids."

Russia has demanded that NATO pay for a full radiological testing of the 
areas affected in Yugoslavia by the DU bombing and for the cost of 
rehabilitation.

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