As two new cases of illness among Portuguese troops who served in the Balkans are confirmed, the Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Guterres, has declared that he no longer trusts NATO and intends to find out the whole truth behind depleted uranium (DU) weapons. “The moment has arrived when we cease to entirely trust the others”, declared Prime Minister Guterres yesterday. “I used to say that the effects on the health were negligible and the set of precautions which should be taken corresponded to those which the Portuguese Armed Forces were applying in the field…From NATO’s point of view, there was no reason for us to be worried”. Prime Minister Guterres pointed out that Portugal was the first country to request a meeting with NATO when the first rumours started to circulate and that Portugal is the only country which has decided to test all personnel who were present in the Balkans. He continued: “When this polemical situation arose, we believed the moment had arrived for us to stop trusting only NATO’s indications and to start carrying out our own tests…We want the whole truth to be known, a truth which we also demand to be clarified at the international level”, declared Antonio Guterres. One Portuguese soldier (Hugo Paulino) has died of kidney and liver failure, another (Manuel Leite) has lost his hair, has continuous headaches and feels extremely weak, having lost 10 kilos in weight in ten months and now there are two more Portuguese soldiers with the same symptoms, Rui Alpalhao and Gualter Nuno. The former declared “Before we went to Kosovo we made blood and urine tests and everything was fine”. After a few months, both soldiers started having terrible headaches, nausea, tiredness, weight loss and dizziness. Rui Alpalhao says he went on missions with Corporal Paulino, who died, often posing for photographs near tanks, even entering them, and eating food provided by a local convent. More evidence is now presented by the United Nations Organization’s first studies in the area: areas of Kosovo where DU weapons were used show “significant radioactivity” levels, according to the report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Samples collected last November by NATO and sent for testing by the UNEP were declared by the same report to be “considerably contaminated”. Now it is also revealed that last May, the United Nations Organization had warned all its civilian personnel in Kosovo not to go anywhere near the areas where DU weapons had been used, namely armoured vehicles and state buildings. The same report stated that almost all the water supply in Kosovo was contaminated and that it was dangerous to drink it. Since last summer, the UN and all non-governmental organizations have been warning new arrivals against the dangers of DU, confidentially and never officially, leaving nothing in writing. Those expecting a calamitous report on radioactivity in Kosovo will probably be disappointed. Radioactivity levels in rivers can be washed away downstream with the winter floods and heavy rains can alter many measurements. It is not in radioactivity where the main danger lies…it is in toxicity and it is this that is killing the soldiers and will start to affect civilians over the next ten years. This is why NATO can look the world in the eye, without blinking, and deny that there is any danger posed through radiation. Enriched uranium, 115 times more radioactive than Uranium in its normal state, produces dangers from radioactivity. Depleted Uranium is 40 times weaker than the metal in its mineral state and poses dangers through toxic levels damaging the kidneys and liver. It can be assimilated in the organism through ingestion (eating or drinking) or through the lungs. While the United States of America and NATO’s high command continue, even today, to deny that there is any danger, a position which seems ridiculous in view of all the evidence which is being presented daily – and which will continue to be presented – it is also noticeable that almost all the contingent of United States Armed Forces in the Balkans (11,000 troops) was stationed outside any area where DU weapons had been used. The Balkans is not the only area where DU was used with horrifying consequences. In the Gulf War, 286 tonnes of DU weapons were dropped. This would be enough to expose every American man, woman and child to one hundred times the safety level defined by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “This process provoked the contamination of the environment and the people in Persian Gulf”, declared Tara Thornton, from the US Project on Military Toxins. How much more evidence is going to appear before NATO admits that DU weapons were wrongly and illegally used in the Gulf and in the Balkans?
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey Pravda.Ru Lisbon
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