Replying to concerns over the use of depleted uranium in the Balkans, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan emphasized the need for inter-agency cooperation and reliable scientific advice.
On 31 January 2001, the Secretary-General responded to requests he received from the governments of Italy, Iraq and Lebanon. Excerpts from his reply follow:
"I am very aware of the concern about the possible health and environmental impacts from the use of depleted uranium and I consider it of the utmost importance that the most reliable scientific advice is obtained concerning the issue.
"...The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently undertook a scientific field mission in Kosovo, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, with the objective of preparing a more authoritative assessment of the environmental and health implications of the use of depleted uranium. Laboratory tests are currently being conducted by UNEP and IAEA on samples gathered in the field. The World Health Organization (WHO) is in the process of finalizing a detailed scientific review of the health effects of uranium and depleted uranium which will be a basic reference document for assessing health risks for any exposure.
In view of the scientific uncertainties surrounding this issue, it is essential to use the information that will be made available through these studies in order to effectively plan and undertake further missions in affected countries. Any future work should also proceed on the basis of a coordinated approach between UNEP, IAEA and WHO, in accordance with their respective mandates. We shall also have to address the financial implications of this work and to identify sources of funding. These aspects can be addressed as soon as the reports from UNEP and WHO have been reviewed."
(For more information about the United Nations and recent information on the depleted uranium issue, see the UN Web site at http://www.un.org/NewLinks/).