Letter from John McDonnell MP to David Cameron over DU weapon use in Libya
March 30, 2011
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From: John McDonnell
To: The Prime Minister
Re: Clarity sought over assurances given over depleted uranium weapons and allied use of depleted uranium weapons in Libya
Dear David Cameron,
In response to my intervention on the UN Security Council resolution 1973 debate, you assured me and the rest of the house that British forces “do not use those [depleted uranium] weapons and are not going to use those weapons.”
The reason I intervened, is that I understand it remains MoD policy* to use these weapons, and it was therefore surprising to see this policy change without any MoD announcement. Since the debate I have checked the MoD website several times, and it seems that the policy to use DU weapons remains.
Would you urgently clarify the government’s policy on the use of Depleted Uranium weapons, as I believe the spent ammunition near populated areas pose a significant health risk to civilians in post conflict zones, and would like to have an assurance that British forces will not use these weapons in any future conflict?
Secondly, I was alarmed to hear that six US A-10 aircraft have been in action over Libya at the weekend. These close air support aircraft are normally used against armoured targets, and are likely to be loaded with the PGU-14 30mm armour piercing incendiary round, which contains a depleted uranium penetrator.
Will you assure me that no depleted uranium ammunition was used by these aircraft and commit to urging all our military allies to refrain from using this radioactive and highly toxic weapon on humanitarian grounds?
The stated purpose of our actions in Libya is to protect civilians. This will not be accomplished if we, or our allies, use depleted uranium weapons.
John McDonnell MP
*MoD DU policy “DU anti-armour munitions will remain part of our arsenal for the foreseeable future because we have a duty to provide our troops with the best available equipment with which to protect them and succeed in conflict.”