By Nour Samaha
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
BEIRUT: A panel of experts from the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other international agencies announced a unanimous determination Monday that no depleted-uranium weapons had been used in the summer 2006 war in Lebanon. "To date, there is no evidence of depleted-uranium-ammunitions use during the 2006 conflict in Lebanon," Didier Louvat, IAEA head of radioactive waste issues, told a news conference hosted by the National Council for Scientific Research in Bir Hassan.
Conference attendees included representatives of the Engineering Regiment of the Lebanese Army; the head of the National Council for Scientific Research George Tohmeh; the Arab Atomic Agency; the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP); the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission (LAEC); the IAEA and the World Health Organization. Each group providing detailed accounts of its research and methodologies.
Tohmeh opened the conference by saying the government "requested that the council carry out research to find out about the use of uranium in the South," during the war. "After months of research and coordination with UNEP and the [LAEC], among others, we felt it would be helpful - and more so, it is our duty to present our findings in this conference."
Senior UNEP' scientist Mario Burger conducted intensive research on soil samples collected in South Lebanon at the Spiez government laboratory in Switzerland. "No use of weapons containing depleted uranium" was found, he said, adding that "no use of weapons containing any uranium - depleted, natural, or enriched" was found.
An above-normal level of concentration of uranium had been found in Khiam, Burger said, but an investigation showed the level of uranium was consistent with levels naturally occurring in soil in the area.
"The laboratory was able to confirm that the uranium measured at the Khiam site stayed in equilibrium with its daughter [decay] products," said Burger. "This is the confirmation that the uranium present at the site was never technically processed and can therefore not be tied to a missile or bomb."
Pieces of missiles and bombs that had hit Khiam in the 2006 war did not reveal any radioactive material, he said.
The findings contradicted claims made in December by Chris Busby, secretary for the European Committee on Radiation Risk, who said there was "no way the signs of uranium found in Khiam were the result of natural or industrial materials. Their only source is nuclear reactors."
Depleted uranium is a highly concentrated radioactive waste product sometimes placed in conventional munitions to increase their ability to penetrate armor such as that used on tanks.
Omar al-Samad, head of environmental radiation monitoring at the LAEC, said testing on 90 soil samples from 71 distinct sites in Lebanon had revealed "no abnormal values."
"Metal pieces found in Khiam were analyzed and no uranium was found," he told the news conference. "And samples taken at different depths confirm the natural composition of the uranium."
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