HEALTH WORRIES OVER FIJI OFFICERS SERVING IN BALKANS

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By Frederica Elbourne

SUVA, Fiji Islands (Jan. 12, 2001 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---The United Nations is responsible for any long-term illness that threatens Fiji police officers on peacekeeping duties in the Balkans, Police Commissioner Isikia Savua said yesterday.

He was responding to questions about a cancer and leukemia scare surrounding international soldiers who have served in Kosovo and Bosnia.

He said Fiji officers know of the consequences when they leave for overseas missions and the scare over depleted uranium used in some munitions was just as serious as death in Lebanon.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has agreed to investigate the health effects of depleted uranium munitions used in the Balkans. This follows increasing reports that some soldiers and civilians have been diagnosed with unusual illnesses since returning from service in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo.

Various forms of illness, particularly leukemia, have been detected. Other reported ailments include hair loss, vomiting, tooth cavities, migraine headaches, osteoarthritis, insomnia, and weight and appetite loss.

Mr. Savua said procedures are followed to detect the radius of radioactivity. This could mean officers wearing cards around their necks, which change of color depending on the intensity of the exposure.

He said there was no need for alarm as far as the safety of Fiji officers is concerned.

"Kosovo is a war zone, so the officers know the risks. There is no danger for our boys or else I would have been informed by now," Mr. Savua said.

Police spokeswoman Acting Assistant Superintendent Sera Bernard said officers serve for a year in these two war-torn countries.

Fiji's Kosovo mission began on December 8, 1999, when a team of 35 officers left Fiji. On December 10 last year, the team was replaced by another group of 35 officers, who are still serving there.

The Bosnia Mission began in March 1997 with 15 officers.

In addition to police overseas, there currently also are substantial numbers of Fiji soldiers on peacekeeping duties in Lebanon, Sinai, and East Timor.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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