KISHINEV, Moldova (AP) _ Cancer and other radiation-related illnesses are on the rise in Moldova because of the 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl, a top health official said Wednesday.

Ion Bahnarel, head of the Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, said such illnesses are not expected to peak in the former Soviet republic until the turn of the century.

Cases of Down's Syndrome have tripled in the past 10 years _ more than half of expectant mothers are ill and 40 percent of them suffer from anemia, according to the Health Ministry.

The Chernobyl plant was the site of the world's worst nuclear accident, when reactor No. 4 exploded in April 1986, contaminating more than 10,000 square miles of the former Soviet Union. Moldova is located between Ukraine, where Chernobyl is located, and Romania.

About 3,500 people from Moldova helped build a concrete sarcophagus encasing the reactor to contain the fallout. Eighty of them since have died and almost 700 have been incapacitated.

Under pressure from the West, Ukraine has agreed to shut Chernobyl by 2000. It won a $3.1 billion aid pledge from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations to compensate for lost jobs and electricity.