UNITED NATIONS - After lobbying by Washington, the General Assembly rejected yesterday an Iraqi proposal that the UN study the effects of the depleted-uranium shells used by US-led forces in the Gulf War.
Baghdad has insisted for years that there is a link between the depleted uranium used in armor-piercing weapons during the 1991 war and an increase in the number of Iraqis with leukemia and other kinds of cancer.
Iraq's Health Ministry has said that cancer cases rose to 10,931 in 1997 from 6,555 in 1989, especially in areas bombed during the war, in which a US-led coalition drove Iraq out of Kuwait after it invaded its oil-rich neighbor.
The 189-nation General Assembly voted down the Iraqi plan 45-54, with 45 abstentions. The assembly's committee on disarmament and international security had approved the plan earlier this month, 49-45.
Diplomats credited a lobbying campaign by Washington for the turnaround.
Acting at Baghdad's request, the World Health Organization began an in-depth study this year of the health impact of depleted-uranium munitions used in Iraq. Baghdad has cited studies saying that coalition forces used 944,000 depleted-uranium shells against Iraq during the Gulf War.
A resolution drafted by Iraq said the shells had spread radioactive particles and chemical dust over large areas and contaminated ''animal and plant life and the soil.''
It asked UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to survey UN member nations and relevant outside groups ''on all aspects of the effects of the use of depleted-uranimum armaments'' and submit a report on his findings to the assembly next year.
The use of ammunition containing depleted uranium sparked a furor across Europe earlier this year, after some allied peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo said they had developed leukemia because of exposure to the material.
NATO and many health officials have denied that the munitions cause cancer.
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