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Three to be tested for radiation


Jenjie

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Three people have been sent to a special clinic for radiological tests following the death of the Russian former spy Alexander Litvinenko.

The 43-year-old's death last week has been linked to the discovery of radioactive polonium-210 in his body.

 

Traces were found at a London hotel and a sushi bar he visited and the three - all linked to the venues - are being referred as a precautionary measure.

 

An inquest into Mr Litvinenko's death will be held on Thursday.

 

The hearing will be opened then adjourned at St Pancras Coroner's Court, said a Camden Council spokesman.

 

The three people were referred for tests because they had symptoms which may indicate radiation poisoning, the Department of Health said.

 

The Health Protection Agency said more than 450 people had called a government hotline for advice, with 18 passed on for follow-up.

 

Of the 18, three have been referred as a precaution to a special clinic for radiological assessment.

 

Emergency talks have been held by ministers to assess the public risk and Home Secretary John Reid is due to make a statement to the Commons.

 

Mr Reid earlier chaired Tuesday's meeting of the "Cobra committee", which brings together ministers, officials and experts to discuss matters of urgency.

 

The committee has met several times since the death of Mr Litvinenko, 43, who became a British citizen after coming to live in the UK.

 

But the Conservatives are expected to call for a Commons statement on the death.

 

On Sunday Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said "murky murders" cast a shadow over Russian President Putin's achievements.

 

Risks

 

Mr Litvinenko was a critic of Russia President Vladimir Putin, but the Kremlin has repeatedly dismissed allegations of involvement in the poisoning as "sheer nonsense".

 

Asked about Mr Hain's comments, the prime minister's official spokesman said Mr Blair had made his clear his concerns about some aspects of human rights in Russia but this case required caution.

 

"There is a police investigation ongoing and we have to await the outcome of that investigation," he said.

 

"Therefore, I think it is premature to be drawing any conclusions at this stage."

 

Mr Blair had not spoken to Mr Putin about the death but Foreign Office officials had met the Russian ambassador to ask for co-operation with the inquiry.

 

Thursday's hearing is expected to be short. The coroner will receive evidence confirming Mr Litvinenko's identity and confirm if the post mortem has been conducted.

 

Mr Litvinenko had been investigating the murder of a prominent Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, before he fell fatally ill.

 

Radioactive traces were found at the Itsu restaurant in Piccadilly and the Millennium Hotel's Pine Bar, both visited by the Russian ex-spy on November 1. Decontamination work has begun.

 

Results are expected later this week for tests carried out by the Health Protection Agency on urine samples submitted by people who were at those venues on that day.

 

Hundreds of people called the NHS Direct hotline for advice, but the agency said risk to the public of exposure was low.

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6186666.stm

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