The Serbian connection

SOME OF THE weapons used by the Serbs in the war in former Yugoslavia were produced as part of the illegal project to supply Iran in the 1980s.

In 1990, the Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement in Belgrade, in a promotional brochure, described an apparently new range of ammunition for sale. 'Lethality is more than double that of present standard high-explosive projectiles with retained precision,' it said.

This shell was the 155mm ERFB-BB. Its picture was uncannily similar to one that appeared on a brochure produced two years earlier by Allivane, or as it was then known, Aerotechnologies. It was in fact the same shell.

The Yugoslav ammunition production line was built for the manufacture of shells for the Iranian contract. By April 1988, when Allivane obtained an import licence from the Health and Safety Executive for 155 extended-range shells from the Federal Directorate, that facility had come on line. From other Allivane documents, it is clear that the Belgrade operation had started well before, and was operating by 1987.

There was nothing technically illegal, according to the Foreign Office, about technology transfer of such sophisticated munitions systems to Yugoslavia at this time. The Concom agreement which prohibited the export of Nato weapons to the Eastern bloc did not cover Yugoslavia.