Paris shamed by Nato spy arrest

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PARIS HAS been deeply embarrassed by the arrest of a pro-Serb French military officer, who was allegedly passed Nato operational secrets to Belgrade.

The arrest of Commandant Pierre Bunel, an official at Nato headquarters, throws into doubt French hopes of later this week gaining the status of lead nation in allied operations in and around the troubled Serb province of Kosovo. It also supports allegations made by the US media earlier this year - angrily dismissed at the time by Paris - that there are widespread pro-Serb sympathies in the French officer corps.

The exact nature of the secrets handed to the Serbs by Major Bunel, 46, is unclear. If, as first reported, they included lists of possible targets for Nato punitive air raids on Serbia, the damage is unlikely to have been great. Officials say such targets are mostly self-evident.

If the information included details of Nato "electronic warfare" techniques used to disarm air defences, the potential impact could be much greater. But alliance officials say it is extremely unlikely he had access to this information, which is the realm of the Nato supreme military command. He was head of the office of the French military delegation to the administrative headquarters in Brussels.

Arrested at the weekend by the French counter military espionage agency, Major Bunel reportedly confessed but insisted he acted from pro-Serb sympathies, not for money. He has been placed under investigation and held in custody.