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Scientists in Iraq are to begin assessing the extent of pollution caused by oil spills, industrial waste, and scrap metal from military vehicles destroyed during the country's recent wars.

More than 300 locations in Iraq are thought to be contaminated. In a pilot project beginning next month, Iraqi scientists trained by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) will test samples from five of the contaminated sites. These include a sulphur mine and a seed store containing toxic fungicide.

UNEP is coordinating the study in collaboration with the Iraqi government. It is part of a broader US$4.7 million aid programme to support the Iraqi environment ministry. UNEP has also requested US$2.5 million from the international donor community to assess sites suspected by scientists to be polluted by depleted uranium. The munitions component has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects following the 1991 Gulf War.

Link to full Reuters news story