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Controversy on DU Weapons Resurfaces in Italy

At the beginning of May, Italian Defence Minister Antonio Martino said that a scientific committee’s report on the unusually high number of cancer cases, widely believed to have been related to the use of depleted uranium weapons, among Italian soldiers who took part in NATO peace-keeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo would be made known. This will be the third time the committee reports to the Italian government on the issue.

The controversy over the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons resurfaced in Italy around the same time after a state-run radio show revealed that a number of children fathered by Italian soldiers who served in the Balkans and Somalia had been born with genetic malformations. The program said it had found seven cases of genetically malformed children born to troops who had served on peacekeeping missions in which DU weapons were deployed. The fathers, who preferred to remain anonymous, said their children suffered from the same sort of illnesses found among many of the offspring of soldiers who took part in the 1991 Gulf War operation Desert Storm and numerous children in Iraq. In particular, they cited bone deformations

RAI-News 24 produced evidence showing that Italy possessed DU munitions from 1985 on and that these weapons were used by Italian peacekeeping forces serving in Somalia in 1992-94 and were even used on some Italian firing ranges up until 2001. Senator Lorenzo Forcieri, who is head of Italy’s parliamentary delegation at NATO, called for an immediate parliamentary inquiry into the allegations. “This isn’t a question of creating alarm but of taking courageous action in a bid to find out the truth ...Our troops cannot be treated like cannon fodder,” he said.

The DU controversy exploded early in 2001 after Italy, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands reported a spate of cancer cases among soldiers who took part in peace-keeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. During the 1999 Kosovo war, U.S. planes were reported to have fired about 31,000 rounds of DU ammunition at Serbian targets while in 1995, U.S. bombers fired 10,800 rounds in Bosnia. But an Italian government report issued in March last year said there was no evidence of a link between DU weaponry and the 25 or so cases of cancer encountered in Italian Balkan veterans.

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From CADU News 11: Summer 2002

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