Iraq demands war compensation from Britain

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IRAQ is demanding compensation from Britain over damage allegedly caused by depleted uranium shells in the Gulf War.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, has sent a complaint to the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, accusing Britain and the United States of "exposing vast areas [of Iraq] to fatal radioactive pollution".

The complaint followed the release of what Mr al-Sahaf described as a "new and additional admission" by the Foreign Office on 30 April in an official statement that "British tanks used depleted uranium (DU) shells during the Gulf War on orders from the British Ministry of Defence".

Mr al-Sahaf told Mr Annan: "A number of diseases, unfamiliar in the past, have been registered, such as foetal and bone deformities and other cases that cannot be explained.

"Individuals living in the bombarded areas suffer from such diseases, in addition to rising cases of child leukaemia."

In a letter to the Labour MP George Galloway, written on 30 April, Derek Fatchett, the Foreign Office minister, admitted DU had harmful effects. The letter stated: "DU has the potential to cause adverse health effects if ingested, inhaled (for example, from DU dust in the vicinity of a target...) or absorbed...". Britain admits to firing fewer than 100 DU shells in the 1991 conflict but says US troops fired considerably more.

Yesterday, the Labour backbencher Tam Dalyell, who has campaigned for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, called on Britain to co-operate with the Iraqi authorities in investigating so-called Gulf War Syndrome. He believes British Gulf War veterans and Iraqi people were suffering the same symptoms.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The UK has never attempted to conceal its use of depleted uranium ammunition in the Gulf."

Poisonous legacy, page 13