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French Court Turns Away Veterans Plea for Compensation

A French appeals court has rejected demands by military veterans for millions of dollars in compensation for illnesses allegedly contracted during 30 years of nuclear testing in Algeria and French Polynesia. Still, the French government is preparing draft legislation to compensate some nuclear testing victims.

The court case is just one in a series of long-running complaints that French nuclear testing between the 1960s and the 1990s sickened many people. The latest case involves a dozen French veterans who claim the cancers they subsequently fell ill to are linked to radiation exposure from the testing. France conducted 210 nuclear tests in Algeria and French Polynesia over the three decades.

But a Paris appeals court rejected their compensation demands, claiming they pertained to events before 1977 -- when a law on compensation took effect. The veterans' lawyer, Jean-Paul Teissoniere, expressed disappointment in the ruling.

Teissoniere told French radio that the plight of his clients was a social scandal. He argued the court's decision was faulty since the veterans fell ill after the compensation law went into effect.

Still there is some good news for victims of French nuclear testing. In April, the French government agreed to compensate some people suffering health problems from radiation exposure. France's defense minister, Herve Morin, is expected to introduce legislation to that effect in the coming days.

Separately, another court in French Polynesia began to hear this year complaints from former workers at France's nuclear test sites there.