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US military accused of illegally using chemical weapons against Iraqis

[JURIST] Italian state TV RAI [media website] Tuesday aired a documentary accusing the United States of using the chemical white phosphorus [CDC factsheet; GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder] against both insurgents and civilians during a military assault on the insurgent-controlled city of Fallujah last year. Reports that US forces fired white phosphorous rounds into the city, causing severe burns, were circulated at the time [SF Chronicle report], and rights organizations expressed repeated concerns over alleged violations of international humanitarian law [JURIST report] during the siege. The US, however, denied the allegations [USINFO report] and said that US forces were "not using any illegal weapons in Fallujah or anywhere else in Iraq." Although there is currently no treaty specifically banning the use of white phosphorus, the 1980 Geneva Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons [text] bans the use of any incendiary weapons against civilian populations or in any area where high concentrations of civilians live. White phosphorus burns easily and is commonly used to illuminate nighttime battlefields; however, exposure to the chemical can cause substantial medical problems, including burns and irritation as well as organ damage. The US admits to using white phosphorus to illuminate some Iraqi battlefields, but denies using the chemical directly on individuals. BBC News has more.

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