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Powell Disputes Syndrome, War Link

May 29, 1998

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) _ There is no conclusive evidence that Persian Gulf War veterans are suffering from illnesses directly linked to the conflict, retired Gen. Colin Powell said Friday.

But Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the conflict, said compensation for some might be appropriate.

Despite widespread reports of ``Gulf War syndrome,″ the theory remains unproven, he told a gathering of business leaders.

``There’s no doubt that a certain percentage of the troops that served in the Gulf were subsequently ill, and we need to do everything to treat those illnesses,″ he said.

``But it is not yet established, notwithstanding all the studies that have been made, that illnesses that they are suffering from, which are many and varied, are directly related″ to the war.

Thousands of Gulf veterans have complained of symptoms ranging from chronic fatigue to memory loss. A congressional investigation last year said likely causes included exposure to pesticides, smoke from oil well fires and other toxins.

The Pentagon has acknowledged that up to 100,000 U.S. troops may have been exposed to low doses of nerve gases, but contends they were too small to have caused any sustained health problems.

Former Sen. Donald Riegle, a Michigan Democrat who led an inquiry into the complaints after hearing from veterans in his state, said there was no doubt Gulf War syndrome was real.

``It’s a deadly serious problem,″ he said.

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