Veterans to abandon legal claims for 'Gulf war syndrome'

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The legal battle to gain compensation for veterans suffering from "Gulf war syndrome" has been abandoned because of a lack of scientific evidence.

The Legal Services Commission, which is believed to have spent £4m on the case, is expected to withdraw legal aid this month after being told by veterans' lawyers the case had no realistic chance of success.

The legal team representing more than 2,000 veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf war are reported to have made the decision after 10 years of research failed to establish a specific cause for the range of health problems suffered. To have succeeded in their case, the veterans would have had to have proved not only that their illnesses were caused by their service during the war but that the Ministry of Defence had been negligent.

Many experts still believe there is a link between the conflict and ill health. British, American, Australian and Danish troops are reported to have about twice the incidence of illness than normal members of the public. They have reported headaches, depression, weakness, short-term memory loss, muscle pains, rashes and difficulty breathing. A wide range of causes have been suggested including depleted uranium fallout from allied munitions, vaccinations, tablets given to counter nerve agents, pesticides used to control flies, pollution from oil fires and undetected chemical attacks.

The lack of a consensus on the cause or sufficient evidence of negligence has scuppered the claim; 2,000 of the veterans have already been awarded discretionary war pensions.

Patrick Allen, a solicitor representing the victims, told The Guardian: "We hope that a cause will be found for Gulf war illnesses... and that effective treatment programmes can be instigated to help improve the health of the victims."