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Iraqi child cancers link to Gulf War weapons

November 30, 1999

By Patsy McGarry

The journalist and author Robert Fisk last night said "an explosion of child cancers" in southern Iraq appeared to be intimately linked to weapons used by US-led forces in the Gulf War.

Similar weapons were used in the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia, he said, and he claimed that NATO bombed the Serbian television station on April 23rd this year when the Serbian Information Minister, Mr Aleksandar Vucic, was expected to be in the building for a CNN interview. Mr Vucic had cancelled the interview some hours earlier.

Mr Fisk was delivering the third Christina Murphy Memorial Lecture, "Cancer and Guns: reporting `Our' Wars", at the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin. It followed the awarding of the Christina Murphy Memorial Prize for student journalists to Mr James Dunne of Templeogue, Dublin.

The prize is sponsored by the National Council for Education Awards in honour of the late Ms Murphy, the Education Editor of The Irish Times who pioneered the paper's Education and Living supplement. It was presented by Mr Dermot Mullane, her widower.

Mr Fisk spoke of recent visits to Iraq and uncovering evidence of an unusually high incidence of cancer there since the Gulf War, particularly since in the south. In Basra, where the last tank battles of the war had been fought, people were reporting "footballsized tomatoes, carrots of a strange purple colour, water that no longer tasted normal".

In southern Iraq American forces had fired an estimated 14,000 depleted uranium shells (about 350 tons), while their A-10 aircraft fired "tens of thousands of rounds tipped with depleted uranium, some say 940,000 rounds."

Depleted uranium, he said, "is now routinely used in the manufacture of an armour-piercing projectiles". These are used mainly in the destruction of tanks.

According to Britain's Ministry of Defence its forces used fewer than 100 depleted uranium shells, Mr Fisk said.

However, he thought "some of the thousands of western soldiers now suffering from what is know as Gulf War Syndrome think differently about the British estimate".

Mr Fisk illustrated visits he had made to a Baghdad children's hospital last year with photographs of young patients who had come from regions where there had been massive American bombing, all of whom had since died.

He said that "a requested research survey by the World Health Organisation never took place", while Britain's then armed forces minister, Mr Doug Henderson, said that as no "peer reviewed epidemiological research data" on the claims had taken place, "it would therefore be premature to comment on this matter".

Mr Fisk said US forces also used uranium-depleted weaponry in Kosovo and central Serbia. "Their A-10 aircraft were using it across Kosovo," he said. One such aircraft took part in the NATO attack on a 12-mile long convoy of Albanian refugees on April 14th, killing 80 civilians.

He had spoken to one survivor recently who said one of her female relatives now had a kidney problem. "I didn't dare think, let alone suggest, what this might be," he said. And the promised NATO investigation into the massacre had not taken place.

Irish Times

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. ***

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