UN counsels caution at DU sites Kosovo
United Nations scientists investigating
the effects of depleted uranium used in Kosovo during the 1999 war have
called for precautions in handling ammunition that can still be found
at numerous attack sites. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
research team, led by Finland’s former minister of Environment and
Development Co-operation, Pekka Haavisto, is financed by donations from
several governments, with Switzerland as the principal contributor.
The team took “several hundred samples” of spent DU ammunition and contaminated earth, soil, plants and cow’s milk, from 13 sites in Kosovo where NATO planes had fired on suspected Yugoslav positions during the alliance’s 1999 air war. The samples will be tested in laboratories elsewhere in Europe and the results of the study become available in February next year. The team’s recently released preliminary report, however, counsels that ‘precautions be taken when dealing with penetrators and sabots (which contain DU) found at the identified sites and also in other locations where these ammunitions might be present.
The UN agency’s investigations began in May 1999 while NATO air attacks were still occurring. But the first studies were made even more difficult by the fact that NATO would not confirm that it was indeed using DU ammunition. NATO took 5 months to respond to the UN’s request for information, and finally acknowledged in March this year that its A-10 ‘’Warthog’’ aircraft had used munitions with DU in approximately 100 attacks over Kosovo territory. Haavisto said he was disappointed that NATO had not supplied precise details of the bomb sites until a year and a half after the conflict, but that the information when given had appeared accurate.
The Warthog airplanes are equipped
with GAU-8/A cannons capable of firing 4,200 rounds of 30-millimetre DU
shells per minute. The same weapons were used against Iraq in the 1991
Gulf War, and later in the NATO bombings against Bosnia.
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Page last updated: May 26, 2005