Arkan was identified in 1992 by the US State Department as a suspected war criminal, alleged to be responsible for massacres of Croat and Muslim civilians in Croatia and Bosnia. It therefore comes as a surprise to learn that a political party led by Arkan has qualified for up to pounds 130,000 in Western-supplied campaign funds for Bosnia's first post-war elections.
The Party of Serb Unity is entitled to receive the money from the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the international body supervising the elections on 14 September. The fact that Arkan's candidates are openly advocating the unification of the Serb-held region of Bosnia with Serbia itself - in direct contradiction of last year's Dayton peace settlement - has not prompted the OSCE to deny Arkan's party the money.
Jean Ouellet, an OSCE official said: "The political campaign funding is basically for all political parties to get their message across. We may not like some of them, we may not agree with some of them, but we cannot censor them."
For Bosnian Muslim politicians and for United Nations officials based in former Yugoslavia who are familiar with Arkan's war record, this is a shameful and inadequate response. Even before the wars, Arkan was on Interpol's wanted list as a bank robber.
OSCE officials, and Western diplomats, note that the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague has not yet formally indicted Arkan as a war criminal - and may never do so. Moreover, Arkan, a native of Serbia, is not attempting to break the Dayton agreement by personally running for office.
Nevertheless, the fact that Arkan's openly Serbian expansionist party has been deemed to be entitled to official campaign money seems likely to knock a big dent into the credibility of the elections.
Sarajevo - Nato issued a stern warning to Bosnian Serb leaders yesterday after a British Army patrol was forced to fire into the air to disperse a hostile crowd in Serb territory. "Yesterday, the soldiers chose to fire a warning shot. The next time the consequences could be fatal," US Admiral Joseph Lopez, com- mander of the Nato-led peace force in Bosnia, said. ReuterReuse content