War In The Balkans: Alliance - Nato reaffirms its trust in France

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FRANCE AND Nato yesterday denied a British press report that suggested France was not trusted by its allies to play a full-blooded part in the Balkan war.

The report, in The Daily Telegraph, said the US was refusing to share its most secret plans and intelligence with Paris. A French major at Nato headquarters was last year arrested for passing information to Serbia on likely alliance bombing targets. Earlier, another major was withdrawn from Bosnia after becoming too close to the Bosnian-Serb military. To that extent, the reported fears in Washington are grounded in fact. But yesterday, both Nato and the French government categorically denied any suggestion that the US was withholding information from France or any other ally.

The US is notoriously reluctant to share all of its intelligence information with any ally, including Britain. There may be some information that - given the pro-Serb leanings of a few French officers - Washington prefers to keep to itself.

France is not in the military wing of Nato but it is at the heart of the Nato air assault on Serbia, with 53 aircraft engaged (more than any country except the US and Britain).

France has traditional ties to Serbia but 70 per cent of the French support Nato's campaign. Both the right-wing president and the left- wing prime minister - and most of the press - have supported Nato from the beginning.

The article suggested that Washington was waiting for the French to drop out of the Nato attacks and pursue their own diplomatic initiatives.