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Gulf War Syndrome Acknowledgment urged


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Gulf War Syndrome Acknowledgment Urged

48 minutes ago

By EMMA ROSS, AP Medical Writer

LONDON - A new report on Gulf War (news - web sites) illness urges the British government to acknowledge that Gulf War syndrome is real and calls for compensation for veterans who became ill following service in the 1991 conflict.

The inquiry, led by retired senior judge Lord Lloyd of Berwick, was not commissioned by the government. The investigation was set up at the request of Lord Morris of Manchester, the parliamentary adviser to the Royal British Legion, after the Ministry of Defense refused an official inquiry.

The panel, which released its findings Wednesday, refused to disclose who funded the report, saying that the money was given for the project on condition that the source be kept secret.

Many thousands of Gulf War veterans have experienced undiagnosed illnesses with symptoms such as chronic fatigue, loss of muscle control, diarrhea, migraines, dizziness, memory problems and loss of balance.

Suspected causes include stress, bacterial infection, chemical or biological weapons, pollutants from burning oil fields, depleted-uranium munitions and vaccinations for anthrax and other potential biological weapons.

For years the U.S. and British governments denied the mysterious illnesses were linked to the war. However, both governments now acknowledge that at least some, but not all, of the sicknesses were due to wartime service. They say, however, that there is not enough evidence of a unique "Gulf War syndrome" with specific characteristics.

A U.S. government panel concluded in 1996 that combat-related stress was the most likely source of the illnesses, although it recommended pursuing other possible reasons.

Last week, a follow-up investigation by another U.S. government panel concluded that more recent studies suggest the veterans' illnesses are not caused simply by stress. It said there was a "probable link" between illnesses suffered by American veterans and exposure to toxins, including nerve gases such as sarin.

The British Ministry of Defense refused to allow serving officials or military personnel to testify before the Lloyd inquiry, but it did submit written evidence.

Lloyd's inquiry did hear testimony from the commander of the British forces in the Gulf, Gen. Peter de la Billiere, scientists and 35 veterans and their families.

Several studies have consistently found that veterans of the Gulf War are twice as likely to suffer illness as soldiers who didn't fight. Veterans argue that the correlation is a real cause-and-effect relationship, even though those kinds of studies merely spot suspicious associations and do not prove cause and effect.

"Since the Gulf veterans were twice as likely to become ill as if they had stayed in the U.K., the government ought now, in fairness, and not before time, to accept that the illnesses of those who were deployed to the Gulf were caused by their deployment," the report said.

The report also recommended that the illnesses be called Gulf War syndrome, as they are referred to by veterans, and that, while research into the causes continues, the government set up a special fund to make compensation payments to those veterans who had suffered as a result of their service.

Lloyd conceded his report did not compel the government to act but said he hoped it would seize the opportunity and accept the findings.

"Our report in itself can do nothing," he said. "It depends on the usual pressure being brought to bear on the MoD by the public, by the press and by Parliament."

The Ministry of Defense said it intends to review the report and issue a response

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