BRITISH GOVERNMENT REJECTS CHRISTMAS ISLAND NUCLEAR TESTING COMPENSATION CLAIMS BY FIJI

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VETERANS

SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 2, 1999 - PACNEWS/INCL)---The British government has rejected compensation claims by Fiji veterans who served during the British nuclear weapons tests at Christmas Island -- now part of Kiribati -- in the late 1950s.

The veterans say many of them are suffering medical problems, which they believe were caused by radiation from the tests, but the British government says a report has conclusively proved the tests had no effect on health.

Meantime, the Fiji-based Pacific Concerns Resource Center has called the British report a "fraud."

Center spokesman Nick McLennan said there is something wrong when the British government reports protective clothing was issued to everyone on the island, because many of the Fijian troops, just like their British and New Zealand counterparts, were not given any protective gear.

He also said many of the Fiji soldiers who were present for the Christmas Island tests also were involved in clean up operations afterwards. McLennan said the ex-soldiers have testified that they were not given anything more than work boots, shorts and shirts for the job.

Fiji has filed a compensation case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Fiji's Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, voiced his support for the claim late last year.

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