A HUDDERSFIELD widow has accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of turning his back on soldiers struck down by so-called Gulf War syndrome.

Carol Avison, of Newsome, claimed Mr Blair had gone back on a promise to hold a public hearing.

She was speaking at an independent inquiry funded by an anonymous donor.

The three-week investigation aims to establish the facts about illnesses from the first Gulf War and resolve the long-standing dispute over their causes.

Carol Avison told the inquiry she and her husband, Major Ian Hill, a former chairman of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, met Mr Blair - together with Mo Mowlam - in the House of Commons a couple of months before the 1997 election.

She told the inquiry: "We met with Tony Blair and he said if we get into government he said what we would do is leave no stone unturned.

"We would get a public inquiry - that is what he promised Ian himself.

"They make promises before they get in government to get that vote, and that's it."

Previously `A1'-fit, Major Hill had to be airlifted back from the Gulf in February 1991 after developing pneumonia, the inquiry heard.

He returned, but was again sent home. His health deteriorated, and following seven years of terminal illness, died in 2001.

An inquest last year recorded a verdict of death by natural causes "to which service as part of the 1991 Gulf campaign contributed".

Support groups claim that 6,000 veterans have suffered unexplained ill-health since the 1991 conflict, and more than 600 are said to have died.

The MoD has always denied the existence of a so-called Gulf War syndrome, insisting there was no single cause of the illnesses suffered.

Hundreds of veterans have tried to claim compensation but they were dealt a blow earlier this year when solicitors advised that there was insufficient evidence to prove their cases in court.