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British MP questions Prime Minister's apparent policy change on depleted uranium weapons during Libya debate

Following concerns that US aircraft may be firing depleted uranium ammunition in Libya, UK Labour MP John McDonnell has today written to the Prime Minister, after an apparent change of government policy on the weapons made on the floor of the House of Commons.
31 March 2011 - ICBUW

cameron libya

Last week the Prime Minister appeared to improvise a new British policy on depleted uranium during the debate on military action in Libya, when he stated that British forces: "...do not use those weapons and are not going to use those weapons" [note 4]. However, the MoD website still displays the previous policy position that: "DU anti-armour munitions will remain part of our arsenal for the foreseeable future because we have a duty to provide our troops with the best available equipment with which to protect them and succeed in conflict." [note 5] An MoD spokesperson confirmed this remains the position.

The clarification is being sought after confirmation that US A-10 aircraft were in action over Libya during the weekend [note 6]. The A-10 can fire depleted uranium armour piercing ammunition from its rotary gun, and it has been confirmed that this gun was used to attack two Libyan boats which were reported to be firing at merchant vessels [note 7]. Their use over Libya itself threatens both Libyan opposition forces and civilians.

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, today asked the Prime Minister to give assurances that these planes were not using depleted uranium and to put pressure on the US administration to ensure it would not be used. He ends his letter with: "The stated purpose of our actions in Libya is to protect civilians. This will not be accomplished if we, or our allies, use depleted uranium weapons."

For the full letter text, see http://uwnetwork.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/letter-from-john-mcdonnell-mp-to-david-cameron-over-du-weapon-use-in-libya

The use of radioactive and chemically toxic depleted uranium ammunition poses a long-term threat to the health of civilians in areas where they are used. Sharp increases in the rates of cancers and birth defects have been reported following their use in Iraq in 1991 and 2003.



Notes:

1. For further information contact UWN on 0161 2738293

2. The UK Uranium Weapons Network is a grouping of 15 organisations working to achieve a ban on the use of depleted uranium weapons in the UK http://uwnetwork.wordpress.com
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is one of Europe's biggest single-issue peace campaigns, with over 35,000 members in the UK. CND campaigns for the abolition of all nuclear weapons everywhere. http://www.cnduk.org

3. Letter from John McDonnell MP to David Cameron: http://uwnetwork.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/letter-from-john-mcdonnell-mp-to-david-cameron-over-du-weapon-use-in-libya/

4. David Cameron, House of Commons, 21st March http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2011-03-21a.700.0#g705.2

5. MoD website: http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/HealthandSafety/DepletedUranium

6. US Navy press briefing: http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4803

7. US Department of Defence press note: http://www.africom.mil/getArticle.asp?art=6347〈=0