Bosnia arms held in dock by US

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The Independent Online
It has more weapons on board than any warship and probably more firepower than anything apart from nuclear missile-armed submarines. But for the moment, none of the giant American Condor's firepower can be used.

It is expected to remain locked in the cavernous holds of the 635ft-long, 91ft-wide Ro-Ro ferry in the Croatian port of Ploce until the Bosnian government, for whom it is destined, sacks its deputy defence minister and acts on promises to begin combining Muslim and Croat forces into a joint Federation army.

On board the US-registered 32,799 ton ship are 45 M-60 tanks, 80 M-113 armoured troop carriers, 15 UH-1 helicopters, 840 light anti-tank weapons, 45,000 M-16 rifles and an unspecified quantity of ammunition. The weaponry - not the world's latest, but better than anything the Muslims and Croats had available during the recent civil war - is the main part of a $100m arms shipment for the Federation as part of the US "Train and Equip" (T&E) programme. The American Condor docked at Ploce on Thursday, but US officials said unloading would not start until "a number of issues" were resolved.

One is the Bosnian deputy defence minister Hasan Cengic whom the US regards as too closely linked with Iran. US officials would not confirm that they wanted him sacked but Mr Cengic himself said in Sarajevo on 8 October that Washington was pressing for his removal. Iran is believed to have supplied the Bosnian Muslim forces during the war, and one newspaper reported that Mr Cengic was trying to undermine the T&E programme.

A US official in Ploce said the Americans were also concerned that the new Federal Defence Law was not being implemented fast enough. During the war the mainly Muslim government army and the Bosnian Croat HVO were separate and fought each other for a year. The US T&E programme depends on the formation of a single, integrated army. A joint command has been formed, with a Muslim, General Rasim Delic, as its head and a Croat, General Budimir, as his deputy, but there are few signs of any other integration. "It's very serious and we're proceeding very carefully," the US official said.