Del Ponte is asked to prosecute NATO for DU

The head of the Athens Bar Association and two human rights groups yesterday asked the chief war crimes prosecutor for Yugoslavia to charge NATO officials for allowing the use of depleted uranium ammunition in the Balkans.
In a request filed with Carla del Ponte, the three asked for the prosecution of any NATO political or military official who authorized the use of the armor-piercing ammunition. 

They claim use of the ammunition violated international agreements barring the use of toxic or "other" materials during a war, and the 1949 Geneva Convention intended to protect civilians in areas of conflict. No NATO officials are named in their request. 

The request was made by bar association president Andonis Roupakiotis; Constantinos Menoudakis, a high court judge and president of the Greek judicial workers union for democracy and freedom; and Aliki Maragopoulou, head of a human rights group. 

Depleted uranium is a slightly radioactive heavy metal which is used in shells and can pierce the armor of a tank. There is concern that dust from the uranium can cause cancer. 

A NATO committee which acts as a clearinghouse about possible health risks has said no evidence of a link between depleted uranium munitions and an increase in illness has yet been found. 

The studies followed concerns in several European countries after Italy began studying the illnesses of 30 veterans of Balkans peacekeeping missions, seven of whom died of cancer, including five cases of leukemia. (AP)