The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on October 23, 1996 · Page 5
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 5

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Wednesday, October 23, 1996
Page 5
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THE SALINA JOURNAL CHEMICAL WEAPONS WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 1996 AS T PERSIAN GULF WAR Pentagon seeks soldiers exposed to nerve gas Officials say more Gulf War veterans might have been exposed By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER The Associated Press WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is trying to contact 20,800 Gulf War veterans who may have been exposed to nerve gas during the destruction of an Iraqi chemical weapons depot in 1991. In announcing the move Tuesday, the Pentagon also acknowledged that hundreds more nerve gas rockets may have been exploded than first thought and expanded the time frame when exposure may have occurred. Pentagon officials previously said they were concerned about two explosions, which took place when U.S. Army engineers blew up the Khamisiyah weapons depot in southern Iraq on March 4 and March 10,1991 Letters being sent to U.S. troops and veterans now state the period of possible exposure as March 4 to March 15 of that year. The time frame was expanded because of conflicting accounts of the number of rockets potentially destroyed and the dates on which demolitions took place, officials said. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said that he did not know exactly how many soldiers have been contacted but that at least 600 thought to have been in the area of the weapons depot had been reached by telephone. The Pentagon says that up to two tons of sarin nerve gas may have been released when Iraqi rocket shells were demolished at two sites — an open pit and a bunker. Letters going out to the 20,800 Gulf War veterans, copies of which were released to reporters, ask them to call the Pentagon with any information they may have about the demolitions and to register with the Pentagon or the Veterans Administration if they need medical assistance. Who to call • PENTAGON: Soldiers are being asked to call the Pentagon at 1-800-4726719 with any information about the March incidents. • PENTAGON'S HEALTH REGISTRY: 1-800-796-9699. • VA'S HEALTH REGISTRY: 1-800749-8387. The units involved are associated mainly with the Army's 82nd Airborne, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The Pentagon previously said more than 15,000 soldiers may have been exposed to nerve gas but cautioned that the figure could go higher. Bacon said officials are trying to contact any soldiers who may have been within a 31-mile radius of the weapons depot during the March 4-15,1991, period. The radius previously was estimated at half that size. A CIA computer model of weather patterns and other data is being put together to help determine the potential exposure area and how many U.S. and allied troops could be at risk. But Bacon said the Pentagon decided not to wait for final results of the analysis. In June, when it first announced the possibility that troops may have been affected in the incidents, the Pentagon said only about 300 to 400 Army engineers may have been exposed. The Pentagon has said repeatedly it has found no medical evidence of a so-called Gulf War syndrome or gas poisoning. T INTERNATIONAL TREATY U.S. might give up control over arms Nation pulls out of pact meant to end production of chemical weapons By ELIZABETH A. PALMER Congressional Quarterly WASHINGTON — Sometime soon the United States is likely to find itself in an anomalous position: watching while the rest of the world creates an international arms control organization. . And as an outsider, the United States would have limited sway over the new group, which will be monitoring chemicals and chemical weapons. ; Senate leaders on Sept. 12 pulled the 1993 Chemical Weapons Con- .vention off the floor in the face of '.growing opposition. The setback •came as a surprise because the pact boasted sterling bipartisan credentials: It was negotiated by the Reagan and Bush administrations and sent to the Senate by President Clinton. The convention is designed to end the production of chemical weapons, destroy those that exist and monitor countries and companies to prevent production of more of the deadly weapons. The treaty creates an international body to inspect military installations and companies that use or manufacture sensitive chemicals in signator countries. The convention will enter into force 180 days after 65 countries have ratified it. That six-month clock could begin ticking any day now: 64 countries have already ratified the pact and five more are poised to do so. The time will be used to set up the new inspection organization, from hiring and training staff to setting standards and procedures. Because the United States has not approved the agreement, Americans almost certainly will not be chosen to fill the top administrative slots in the organization, as had been expected. Nor will the first teams of inspectors include Americans, who are widely regarded to be among the best qualified for the job. Opponents of the pact argue that the U.S. voice in the organization will be strong if the nation ever does join because its contribution to funding is set at 25 percent of the costs. The Nov. 5 elections could change the situation if Sen. Jesse Helms, R- N.C., a vocal opponent of the pact, is defeated. If he loses, a supporter of the treaty is likely to chair the Foreign Relations Committee no matter which party .controls the Senate: Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., or Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind. And that could persuade other countries to hold open some of the slots in the organization for Americans to be named later. 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