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Military News Briefs for the Week of Jan. 19, 2001

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2001 – (This is a summary of the American Forces Press Service news stories for the week ending Jan. 19, 2001.)

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DU Poses No Risk, de Leon Assures European Peacekeepers

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2001 -- There is no evidence depleted uranium poses health risks, Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy de Leon assured Italian peacekeepers Jan. 13 in Sarajevo, Bosnia.

De Leon's previously scheduled visit coincided with a number of European news reports linking depleted uranium, known as DU, to deaths and illness among NATO-led peacekeepers. De Leon and Italian Deputy Defense Minister Marco Minniti met with Italian soldiers and military police at two locations in Bosnia.

Italy has set up a panel to look into claims that six Italian peacekeepers have died and 21 others are ill due to DU exposure in the Balkans. The European Union has also launched an investigation, and NATO officials are reviewing DU data.

U.S. data on DU will be made available to Italy and other peacekeeping counterparts, de Leon said. The only way to address the issue is "to put all of the facts on the table, to leave no question unanswered," he stressed. "We've pledged to be completely transparent -- to open our doors to them and to provide all of the information we have."

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Institute Looks To Western Hemisphere's Future, Says de Leon

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2001 -- A former Army school that had focused on U.S.-Latin American security issues spawned from the past has been reborn and expanded as a DoD institution, which embraces civil-military partnerships in addressing Western Hemisphere concerns of the 21st century.

Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy de Leon and Army Secretary Louis Caldera traveled to Fort Benning, Ga., Jan. 17 to participate in the activation ceremony of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

"We have come together to rescue the victims and repair the damage from natural and man-made disasters," de Leon said at the ceremony. "We have struggled together to find the best way to confront terrorism and drug trafficking. We are able to stand together and cooperate on these complex security threats, because we share a belief that representative democracy is the foundation of political legitimacy and the key to peace and stability."

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DoD Finds Troops Misused Pesticides During Gulf War

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2001 -- DoD investigators have found that troops occasionally misused pesticides during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Senior defense officials said they can't confirm or rule out a connection between pesticides and illnesses some veterans have been experiencing since the war.

"We're not able to make a link epidemiologically," said Bernard Rostker, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. Rostker also serves as special assistant to the deputy secretary of defense for Gulf War illnesses, medical readiness and military deployments.

DoD released an environmental exposure report Jan. 12 that examined the use and potential long-term health effects of pesticides during the Gulf War. Veterans have reported a wide array of unexplained illnesses that some suspect may be related to their use of and exposure to pesticides during the war.

Surveys found that roughly half the troops serving in Southwest Asia reported using DEET insect repellent nearly every day. Other pesticides were used much less frequently.

Officials said the most widely misused products were pet flea and tick collars.

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