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Greece: DU Fallout Debate Rocks Parliament

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  • Francisco Javier Bernal
    ... Date sent: Sat, 13 Jan 2001 05:20:25 -0800 (PST) From: Rick Rozoff Athens News January 13, 2001 DU fallout debate
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 19, 2001
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      ------- Forwarded message follows -------
      Date sent: Sat, 13 Jan 2001 05:20:25 -0800 (PST)
      From: Rick Rozoff <r_rozoff@...>

      Athens News
      January 13, 2001

      DU fallout debate rocks parliament

      BY GEORGE GILSON

      Torching back: Young Greek women carry torches as they
      join protesters marching towards the US embassy in
      Athens on Thursday night during a protest against the
      use of depleted uranium in Nato bombing raids on the
      Balkans.

      SPARKS flew in parliament yesterday as Prime Minister
      Costas Simitis defended his government's handling of
      the depleted uranium (DU) crisis, especially regarding
      precautions taken to protect Greek troops in Kosovo,
      in response to questions from Left Coalition leader
      Nikos Constandopolulos and former New Democracy chief
      Miltiadis Evert.

      Although Greece did not participate in the 1999 air
      strikes against Yugoslavia, Constandopoulos blasted
      the government for signing on to the campaign,
      allegedly knowing and concealing the hazards of DU,
      and depicted Athens as the handmaiden of Western
      interests. "You all knew. But you were silent... Even
      at this late date you should say 'Enough manipulation
      of Europe by the leadership of the US and Nato every
      time. Europe should undertake with its own policy its
      responsibility to restore and cure what was struck',"
      he said.

      "You say: 'We didn't want to, but what can we do, we
      approved. We didn't want dangerous weapons but, what
      can we do, we won't destroy them. We didn't take part
      in the campaign but, what can we do, we offered all
      facilities requested. The issue should be
      investigated, but let Nato do it," said
      Constandopoulos.

      The Left Coalition leader said that the government
      should call on the EU and Nato to destroy all
      dangerous weapons in their arsenals and ban them. "It
      is clear that you don't want to. You don't dare," he
      said.

      The recriminations came on the heels of revelations by
      the Greek chapter of Helsinki Watch that Athens bought
      504, "Adam M692" landmines containing depleted uranium
      from the US prior to 1992, when a moratorium was
      imposed on their export. That contradicts Greek
      defence ministry assurances that 40,000 DU rounds used
      for training by the Greek navy were the only DU
      munitions in the Greek arsenal, though it is unclear
      whether the mines were deployed.

      Simitis maintained that a Greek veto of the Kosovo
      campaign would have changed nothing as the war would
      have proceeded anyway. "In that case, Greece would
      have found itself weakened and unable to influence
      developments. Who can challenge the fact that Greece
      influenced developments, contributed to peace, sent
      the most humanitarian aid, went first to Kosovo,
      cooperated with Yugoslavia on a solution. That there
      is peace in Yugoslavia right now is due, in part, to
      Greece, which acted effectively," he said.

      While reiterating the health precautions Greece took
      for its peacekeepers and criticising Nato for not
      providing adequate information on DU hazards, Simitis
      said it would be "ridiculous" for Greece as a
      non-combatant to raise objections to the kind of
      munitions its allies deployed.

      In answering Evert, the PM insisted that it is in
      Athens' interest to keep its peacekeepers in Kosovo
      and Bosnia in place. "We sent Greek troops because
      that was required by our country's interests. "Since
      you are complaining loudly, Mr Evert, you should have
      at the time brought all the evidence which you mention
      in your question. But even now you can produce no
      evidence," Simitis responded. The PM denied press
      reports that Evert produced indicating that the
      cabinet was divided over whether to send peacekeepers.


      The PM asserted that proof of a link between DU and
      cancer is required and that testing results from the
      Greek Atomic Energy Commission must be awaited because
      Athens cannot rely on scientific hearsay. "There are
      alarming suspicions and data and we are worried. We
      don't want to have problems. That is why we took care
      to equip Greek troops with the necessary means so
      that, if there is a danger, we can handle the
      situation," he said, referring to the fact that troops
      receive food and drink from Greece. Simitis underlined
      that Athens had called for an international probe of
      the health and environmental effects of the bombings
      as early as April, 1999, when Nato's campaign was
      still underway. "Greece does not accept all that it is
      told. Greece investigates, but it does so responsibly.
      Greece acts responsibly. It cannot act on the basis of
      mere rumours and inconclusive data and under pressure
      or political crescendos," said Simitis.

      Meanwhile, Archbishop Christodoulos of Greece has
      expressed a desire to visit Kosovo on January 19-20
      and is awaiting a response from the Yugoslav
      government.


      ATHENS NEWS , 13/01/2001 , page: A04
      Article code: C12850A041
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