Updated: 12-Jan-2001 NATO Press Releases


12 Jan. 2001


by the NATO Spokesman

First meeting arranged for new NATO Committee
on Depleted Uranium

At a special meeting at NATO headquarters today NATO officials, and representatives of past and present SFOR and KFOR contributing nations were briefed on details of the new Ad Hoc Committee on Depleted Uranium (CDU), and set its first meeting for Tuesday January 16 at 1500 hrs.

The creation of the committee was one of the initiatives agreed earlier this week by Ambassadors on the North Atlantic Council. It is in response to government and public concern over the use of Depleted Uranium munitions in Kosovo and Bosnia. NATO intends to act as a clearing house for information sharing and co-ordination on the issue, and the ad hoc group is a key part of this process.

For that reason the membership of CDU is very wide. Apart from NATO civil and military representatives it will include contributors to SFOR and KFOR; participation is open to UNMIK, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, and in due course from Yugoslavia. Other international organisations and civil bodies could also be invited on a case-by-case basis, and today's meeting emphasised the open nature of the committee.

At today's meetings briefings were given on the current state of medical opinion on the health risks of Depleted Uranium. It was emphasised there is no evidence of a link between Depleted Uranium and Leukaemia, or any evidence of unusual levels of ill-health among personnel who have served in the Balkans.

Nevertheless there is no room for complacency, and the committee has a valuable role in sharing existing and new information on the issue. At today's meeting Portugal, which has sent a scientific team to the region to investigate Depleted Uranium, committed itself to providing the full results of its study to the CDU.

NATO has provided the United Nations with details of the 112 locations where DU was used and the Portuguese team had investigated the 50 sites closest to where Portuguese troops are based. An official said that early analysis showed that the overall natural levels of uranium are actually lower than in Portugal itself, and that the idea of a general risk of contamination was false.

The team is now assessing 18 boxes of soil, food and samples taken from personnel, and expects results in two weeks, which will be sent to the CDU group. It is just one example of the potential value of the committee in ensuring that debate on the issue is based on sound and reliable information.

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