BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Clare Lyons
"The risk is not just to peacekeepers"
 real 56k

Head of UN mission, Pekka Haavisto
"Certainly the local population is moving around those places"
 real 28k

Portuguese journalist, Maria Manuel Stocker
"We will have to see what the consequences are"
 real 28k

Sunday, 7 January, 2001, 16:54 GMT
Balkan syndrome probe begins
Portuguese investigators
A Portuguese team is conducting the investigation
A scientific team from Portugal has begun examining sites in Kosovo, where Nato's use of bombs containing depleted uranium is alleged to have caused contamination and led to illness and deaths among soldiers serving there.

Concern has grown in the past week among European countries whose soldiers have served in the Balkans.

Belgrade scientist displays DU bullets
The weaponry at the centre of the controversy
Sixteen former peacekeepers from six different countries have already died of leukemia, in what has become known as Balkan war syndrome.

This has been blamed on the depleted uranium (DU) used in the manufacture of Nato missiles - but Nato itself insists there is no risk of contamination.

Pressure on Nato

The four-strong team visited the Klina area, in western Kosovo - where Portuguese peacekeepers operate - measuring radioactivity and taking soil samples.

The investigation comes as pressure grows on Nato from European governments over the use of depleted uranium during the conflicts in Bosnia Hercegovina and Kosovo.

You cannot totally exclude the possibility that people can sometimes suffer serious health effects from this type of ammunition

Head of UN mission, Pekka Haavisto
DU is used in the core of missiles, as this makes them better able to penetrate armoured vehicles.

The Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, said on Saturday he could no longer "be completely confident" in Nato assurances, while Poland has announced plans to carry out medical tests to all its soldiers in Kosovo.

Reports from Spain say at least eight cases of cancer have been reported among Spanish personnel deployed in Kosovo and Bosnia Hercegovina.

The European Union's political and security committee is expected to debate the issue in Brussels on Tuesday.

Click here to see where concerns have been reported

On Friday, Portugal began tests on 10,000 soldiers and civilians who have served in the Balkans.

Poland has announced that more than 600 of its troops in Kosovo will undergo tests, which will involve taking samples from blood and hair as well as from water and soil where troops are stationed.

The British Government is resisting calls to carry out similar tests.

Scientists who visited 11 out of 112 sites in Kosovo bombed by Nato said on Friday they had found either remnants of depleted uranium or evidence of increased radioactivity around the impact points left by the raids.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) says it has found no evidence of increased leukaemia in Kosovo since the 1998 bombardment.

Click here to return

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console

Should Nato's uranium weapons be banned?Nato's uranium weapons
Should they be banned?
See also:

04 Jan 01 | Europe
Q&A: Depleted uranium weapons
06 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Tests needed for 'Balkans Syndrome'
10 Jun 99 | Sci/Tech
A soldier's experience
Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories