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Switzerland supports ban on depleted uranium weapons

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, plans to rally support from other nations for the ban

(Keystone)

The Swiss president, Moritz Leuenberger, has announced that Switzerland is in favour of an international ban on arms containing depleted uranium.

Speaking on Thursday, Leuenberger said that even if the dangers of depleted uranium have not yet been proven, Switzerland "must act and cannot afford to wait".

The government plans to propose an international ban on the use of depleted uranium in weapons at a United Nations conference later this year. The UN is expected to revise its convention on inhumane weapons in autumn 2001.

In the meantime, Switzerland hopes to rally support for the ban among the international community.

Leuenberger's announcement coincided with fresh revelations that testing of weapons containing depleted uranium took place in Switzerland as early as 1969, in canton Geneva.

The Swiss defence ministry said, on Thursday, that the tests were independently carried out by the company Hispano Suiza, which was later taken over by the Swiss armaments group, Oerlikon Contraves.

It was revealed earlier in the week that Oerlikon Contraves conducted similar testing in canton Schwyz in the 1970s.

The defence ministry has also admitted that it tested weapons containing depleted uranium in the 1980s. It said it suspended the tests after finding the weapons were not much more effective than conventional ones.

The revelations have heightened fears about the extent to which Swiss troops might have been exposed to radiation from the weapons.

The authorities have offered medical tests to all 900 soldiers who served in the Balkans since 1996.

swissinfo with agencies


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