War in The Balkans - Mercenaries: FO stopped Sandline working for Kosovars

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The Independent Online
INDEPENDENCE LEADERS in Kosovo asked Sandline International, the British mercenary firm, to help in their armed struggle against Serbian rule, but the Foreign Office warned off Sandline because of the United Nations arms embargo on Belgrade.

Sandline has been involved in a number of controversial operations. They were at the centre of the "Arms to Sierra Leone" scandal which caused great embarrassment to the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook.

Lieutenant Colonel Tim Spicer, head of Sandline, says representatives of the Kosovar government approached them late last year for help to protect themselves from ethnic cleansing. "We were contacted by the representatives of the (self-proclaimed) government of Kosovo - not the KLA - and asked whether we would be able to in any way assist them with advice or military training (for a fee)," he said in a BBC interview. Col Spicer said it was not a question of Sandline providing mercenaries but in giving advice and training. "I think we would have been more concerned with helping them protect themselves from ethnic cleansing," he added.

After the Kosovars approached Sandline, the Foreign Office hastily brought into force in February a statutory instrument banning British nationals and companies from providing military training in the region.

Col Spicer, who was Sir Michael Rose's spokeman in Bosnia in the early Nineties, has also predicted that Nato will not send in ground troops but would "bomb periodically, but provide (or at least allow) training and arms for the KLA to let it defend Kosovo".

In a statement yesterday on the Sandline website, he says: "I had firsthand experience of negotiations with the likes of Karadic and Mladic, who are essentially of the same mindset as Milosevic. They demonstrated a fanatical patriotic resolve, stubbornness, cunning and ruthlessness, together with a highly developed level of brinkmanship.

"What should happen is that, in spite of the Serbs ruthless streak, Nato should realise they are bullies - it is one thing to be defiant in the face of remote bombardment and defenceless civilians in Kosovo, but when confronted with effective ground troops their forces will be no match for Nato.