Army veterans have branded a new report into Gulf War Syndrome commissioned by military top brass a "whitewash" after it said exposure to noxious chemicals was not the cause of their illnesses.
The report, produced by the Government-backed Gulf War Illness Research Unit (GWIRU), concluded that health problems reported by veterans could not be blamed on vaccines used during the 1991 war, as some had claimed.
The findings were last night greeted with anger by Shaun Rusling, North-based chairman of the National Gulf Veterans' Association, who said the report lacked both impartiality and credibility.
Many Gulf War Syndrome sufferers, backed by alternative academic research, believe that their condition is related to the use of organophosphates in insect repellent issued to soldiers fighting in Iraq and Kuwait.
Others have linked the symptoms - which include muscle fatigue, loss of co-ordination and even problems encountered by sufferers of autism - to the use of vaccines and even the depleted uranium ammunition during the conflict.
The Journal-backed campaign for justice for sufferers has now been running for almost a decade.
The MoD funded the latest research, carried out at Guy's, King's and St Thomas's Joint School of Medicine in London, in what they say was the most intensive neurological study of Gulf War soldiers in Britain to date.
Forty-nine veterans with neurological symptoms - national estimates say a total of 35,000 are suffering some sort of illness - were given exhaustive medical examinations, alongside a further 29 who had experienced no problems.
The results were then compared to servicemen who had fought in Bosnia, as well as other personnel.
While the research team found there was no evidence that Gulf War veterans' symptoms were linked to brain damage, they did agree that their general health was poorer than that found in other groups of soldiers. That, says Mr Rusling, who served as a medic during the Gulf War, is a complete contradiction.
"This is not surprising, given that the paper was funded by the MoD. Veterans were exposed to low level radiation, classified vaccines and anti-nerve gas pills in the Gulf.
"This has become a national disgrace, but the more the MoD tries to hide this away, the more they will be disbelieved.
"All these desperately ill servicemen can't be wrong, but the MoD seems to be well and truly above the law."
But Professor Simon Wessely, who co-authored the report, said it was now clear that the health effects plaguing many of those who served in Operation Desert Storm was not associated with the brain or nervous system. "There is no smoking gun," he said. "There is no new disease that causes Gulf War Syndrome. There is a Gulf War health effect."
However, Malcolm Hooper, Emeritus Professor of Medicinal Chemistry at Sunderland University who has advised several veteran's groups, also claims the findings are seriously flawed.
He believes the problems stem from damage to the central nervous system.
"For this survey not to find any evidence of neurological damage makes me very suspicious," he said.
"I find this research unpersuasive and statistically insignificant."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: "We note that the authors found no evidence for a specific neuro-muscular disorder that could be linked to deployment in the Gulf conflict. This should reassure all veterans."