Italian 'Balkans Syndrome' Deaths Rise to Five

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Tuesday January 2 10:42 AM ET
Italian 'Balkans Syndrome' Deaths Rise to Five

ROME (Reuters) - The death toll of Italian veterans of Balkan peacekeeping
missions linked to the so-called ``Balkans syndrome'' has risen to five,
Italian newspapers reported on Saturday.

All five veterans died from cancer.

Italian newspapers said Italy's military prosecutor was investigating some
20 cases which the media have linked to the ''Balkans syndrome.''

Press reports have suggested the illnesses could be linked to depleted
uranium shells used by NATO (news - web sites) during its 1999 campaign to
oust Serb forces from Kosovo.

Official reaction has been to deny that such a link exists, but on Friday,
Belgium called for European Union (news - web sites) defense ministers to
discuss health problems suffered by peacekeepers in former Yugoslavia.

The call by Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut came amid rising concern
in Europe over mysterious illnesses among Balkan peacekeeping veterans.

In Lisbon, the Diario de Noticias newspaper reported that Portugal had
ordered medical tests for its soldiers serving in Kosovo to check for
radiation from depleted uranium ammunition used in the NATO campaign.

Concerns over possible health effects of depleted uranium shells in Kosovo
have also been raised by service members or civilian aid workers in Britain
and The Netherlands.

US attack jets fired some 31,000 rounds of depleted uranium ammunition--used
to pierce armor--at Serbian tanks and armored cars during the Kosovo
campaign, according to a United Nations (news - web sites) expert.

The Pentagon (news - web sites) said in March that the remains of the shells
did not present a significant health hazard.

"When the way comes to an end, then change - having changed, you pass
through"  'I Ching'