What’s this story about uranium? Depleted uranium? It is a form of uranium, 40 times weaker than the mineral state of the metal, which is added as an alloy to weapons-grade metals.

Why? It adds impact to the projectile when it hits, say, a tank or an underground bunker, destroying the outer shield due to its extra weight – depleted uranium is a heavy metal. On impact, the uranium fuses and perforates the shell of the tank or bunker and high explosive can then destroy the occupants.

So it is more effective in destroying tanks and underground bunkers than normal projectiles? Yes, it is…

But? But there is an additional problem. On impact, a toxic cloud of uranium gas is emitted

Oh I don’t believe that…they say that DU is as radioactive as a local hospital and less so than your wristwatch. NATO anyway has repeatedly stated that dangers from DU are a non-issue. So how do you account for the deaths ?

What deaths? Soldiers from different countries who have served in Bosnia and Kosovo. There are conflicting reports, but confirmed documented cases point to one Portuguese, six or eight Italians, four or five Belgians, two Dutch, between one and eight Spaniards, one Czech dead and then we have in hospital or receiving treatment……. a lot.

A lot? Yes, confirmed cases are around a hundred thousand American, Canadian and British servicemen in the Gulf, one Briton serving in Kosovo, three Portuguese, four or five Frenchmen, one Spaniard, five Belgians, thirty Italians, fifteen of whom with cancers.

Wait a minute…a hundred thousand?? Are you speaking about Kosovo or the Gulf? I am confused. I am speaking about all theatres of war where Depleted Uranium was used. It started in the Gulf, ten years ago, after the USA acquired a stockpile of DU for a low price from nuclear power stations, then it was used again in the Balkans, first in Bosnia and then in Kosovo.

But I never heard anything about this before. True, that’s because nobody ever spoke about it. It was a secret, you see. Not even the countries who sent their soldiers to Bosnia were informed.

Why? Can’t you imagine?

But what about the civilians? Well, independently performed tests in Iraq have shown that there are malformations in children, an increase in cancers, namely leukaemia and a dramatic increase in leukaemia in children. In Kosovo, it is feared that the water supply is unsafe.

But that’s illegal! What about the other countries in the area ? Macedonia, for instance? Welcome to the twenty-first century! International politics move in mysterious ways, especially when they involve NATO

Yes but we are not speaking about the robbery of the corner shop, we are speaking about intrusion into other countries and violation of Geneva agreements on rules of engagement. What about the environment? Well, independent tests made by the UNO have just been released…and state that the situation is extremely worrying due to high levels of radiation.

I thought you said that DU weapons were toxic, not radioactive.. Ah! That’s where NATO holds its trump card. Mention the word “uranium!” and everyone shouts “radioactivity!” In this case, radiation levels can rise and fall but what kills is toxicity.

But this is outrageous! Who started all this in the Gulf War? I don’t know…ask Colin Powell, he’s the new US Secretary of State.

Yes, but wasn’t he involved in the Gulf War too? I don’t know…ask him

John Ashtead Pravda.Ru London