No need to worry
In a solemn effort to disperse increasing anxiety about the possible link between the use of depleted uranium (DU) weaponry in Kosovo and leukaemeia or other unusual tumors, NATO insisted that
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To diffuse doubts even further, and to raise its level of credibility, NATO made available for public access a variety of documents and scientific reports. At a meeting of the North Atlantic Council on Wednesday, the 19 ambassadors decided that NATO would cooperate fully with investigations conducted by the countries involved or by international organisations (the UN, EU and WHO have already started official inquiries).
The first step will be the convening of the Chiefs of Military Medical Services Committee (COMEDS) on the scientific background of DU on Monday 15 January. Although arrangements for information-sharing will be established, the Alliance does not intend to carry out its own direct research.
Credibility at stake
Fears about the effect of DU shells have increasingly been accompanied by a concern about the lack of transparency and credibility of NATO as a whole as well as of the defence ministries and its members. The latest crisis, in the Ministry of Defence of Britain, concerned a row over a leaked report warning of the dangers of exposure to the radioactive DU. The report was at first disregarded as "the work of a trainee," until the MoD admitted on Thursday that it had been produced by a qualified "officer" and then signed by a senior official.
Despite calls for a moratorium on DU weapons, the newly established European Rapid Reaction Force will probably be equipped with such arsenal, defence experts say. To handle crisis-management situations, the EU will need anti-tank munitions, and these are largely made of DU. "It is up to the EU to choose what kind of weapons will be used," said Anders Bjurner, Stockholm's ambassador on the Union's political and security committee.
NATO visit to Yugoslavia
Meanwhile, the first visit to NATO by a Yugoslav official took place on Wednesday. Goran Svilanović, foreign minister in the new democratically-elected government of Yugoslavia, and Lord Robertson, NATO Secretary General, agreed on opening a dialogue on "all matters of common concern," including DU.
At present, however, the Yugoslav government has no position on a probable participation in the Partnership for Peace programme.
Branimira Radoslavova, 12 January 2001
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