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Iraqi vet says depleted uranium killing fish

Planet Ark

IRAQ: 25th March 2002

BAGHDAD - An Iraqi vet said on the weekend thousands of fish that have died at fish farms near Baghdad were poisoned by munitions used by British and U.S. forces.

"Mortality rate among fish has reached 100 percent in some of the fish farms," said Dhahir Habib Dhahir, a veterinary surgeon at state-run Swairah fish farm 50 km (30 miles) south of the capital.
Iraqi television showed large quantities of the diseased fish being burned by workers at one of the fish farms.

"Researchers and specialists have attributed this disease which affected the fish to the use of banned weapons dropped by American forces against Iraq," the vet told Reuters television.

Head of the farm Adel al-Samaraee said the Iraqi Agriculture Ministry was due to study the fish, adding that the deaths were "clearly caused by depleted uranium and poisonous materials dropped by American and British forces".

Depleted uranium is used as a component of armour piercing munitions. When a uranium-tipped weapon hits an object, it produces a vapour that is weakly radioactive.

Iraqi authorities say the allied forces used an estimated 300 tonnes of depleted uranium munitions against Iraq in the U.S.-led 1991 offensive to recapture Kuwait.

The fish farms are within a southern no-fly zone set up by the United States, Britain and France after the 1991 Gulf War to prevent possible attacks by Baghdad forces on Shi'ite Muslims.

A similar no-fly zone was established in the north to protect a Kurdish enclave. Baghdad, which does not recognise the zones, says U.S. and British warplanes patrolling them have frequently hit Iraqi targets.

Iraq also says the number of cancer cases among Iraqis has soared since the Gulf War because of depleted uranium.

Last year, the World Health Organisation began an in-depth study into the health impact of the shells used in Iraq.

In November, however, after lobbying from Washington, the United Nations General Assembly voted down an Iraqi proposal for a U.N.-backed study into the effects of depleted uranium shells in the Gulf War.

A report by Britain's Royal Society scientific organisation published earlier this month said topsoil in areas heavily contaminated with depleted uranium should be removed and water quality should be monitored for any contamination.

World Environment News - Planet Ark