Skip to main content
ad info

Middle East Asia-pacific Africa Europe Americas    world > europe world map
  Editions | myCNN | Video | Audio | Headline News Brief | Feedback  

4:30pm ET, 4/16


Portugal probes Kosovo uranium sites

NATO maintains that the risk to troops in "minimal"  


KLINA, Yugoslavia (Reuters) -- A team of Portuguese scientists are examining depleted uranium sites suspected of causing "Balkan Syndrome" illness among troops.

After arriving on Saturday, the crew of four from the Department of Radioactivity Protection went immediately to the Klina area in western Kosovo with Portuguese peacekeepers who work in the region.

The visit comes amid increasing concern for the health of soldiers who served in the Balkans after Italy linked the deaths of six soldiers to exposure to radioactive material.

Portuguese Kosovo veteran Hugo Paulino died in March last year from a type of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, which his father has since maintained was brought on by exposure to depleted uranium.

Gulf War vet Shaun Rusling explains to CNN's Fionnuala Sweeney the symptoms of uranium exposure illness

Play video
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon denies connection between depleted uranium and "Balkan's syndrome"

279K/35 sec.
AIFF or WAV sound


Shaun Rusling, Chairman of the UK Gulf Veterans and Families Association talks about "Balkan's syndrome"

691K/64 sec.
AIFF or WAV sound

LaityMark Laity Nato spokesman downplays the risk of uranium to human health.

0.37 MB/30 sec.
AIFF or WAV sound

Possible link between depleted uranium and serious illness

1.07 MB/104 sec.
AIFF or WAV sound
Peace in the Balkans

A number of European countries have called for an investigation into deaths or illness among peacekeepers, but NATO has dismissed any link to illnesses, saying that the threat from the depleted uranium posed a "negligible hazard."

Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has also said it sees no cause for concern and that the risks to troops are "minimal."

The Portuguese scientists have used Geiger counter-style machines to check the ground for radiation and have taken soil samples.

"So far we have not found meaningful contamination, but the work is still far from the end," team leader Fernando Carvalho said.

"We are monitoring the contamination of the environment from radioactivity due to the use of depleted uranium bomb shells."

Portugal's armed forces say there is no connection between Paulino's death and his serving in Kosovo.

Prime Minister Antonio Guterres said on Sunday that Portuguese troops would continue their peacekeeping missions in Kosovo unless investigations showed their health to be at risk.

"I think any hasty action right now would be very negative," Guterres told TSF radio. "We continue with our initial action. We trust in the sense of responsibility of the armed forces.

"But, evidently, we will know how to act in their defence if and when that may be necessary."

Depleted uranium is used in the tips of shells and bullets to increase their ability to penetrate armour and can be pulverised on impact into a toxic radioactive dust.

U.S. attack jets fired about 31,000 DU rounds against Serbian targets during NATO's 1991 campaign to drive the Yugoslav army out of Kosovo. About 10,000 rounds were also fired in neighbouring Bosnia in 1994-5.

Reuters contributed to this report.

UK urged to probe 'Balkans syndrome'
January 7, 2001
Conflicting research on radiation in Kosovo
January 6, 2001
NATO urged to probe 'Balkans sickness'
January 5, 2001
NATO arms illness claims denied
January 4, 2001
Peacekeepers' deaths linked to 'Balkans syndrome'
December 30, 2000

Gulf War Illnesses
United Nations Environment Programme
Ministry of Defence
UK Gulf War Veterans
Governments on the WWW: Portugal

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top  © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.