France accuses US of arming the Muslims

Bosnia: Allegation highlights political divisions between Washington and Europe 8 Government rejects UN special envoy

TONY BARBER London

DAVID USBORNE New York

France accused the United States yesterday of covertly supplying arms to Bosnia's Muslim-led government in defiance of a United Nations embargo. A senior French military officer, clearly speaking with his government's approval, said at a briefing in Paris that the US had also sent former generals and reserve officers to advise the Muslim-led forces on their war effort.

"The Bosnians now have new uniforms and M16 rifles, and we supposedly don't know where they have come from," the French officer said.

"The problem today is that the United States backs military action by the [Muslim] Bosnians, whereas we [Europeans] are neutral,'' he added. ''If the Europeans are on one side and the Americans on the other, it would be like an earthquake in the Atlantic alliance."

The US has consistently denied offering covert aid to the Bosnian government, even though such action might well meet with the approval of many in Congress who would like to see an official lifting of the UN arms embargo against the Muslims.

A US official refused yesterday to respond explicitly to the allegations from Paris. "Right now, we don't have any comment," an official at the US mission to the UN in New York.

A State Department source said similar charges had been made in the past and always denied. "These kind of things have come up before, and obviously we have dismissed them," the source said. "We're not supplying arms to anybody and we work through our Nato allies on anything like this."

The French accusation underlined the continuing divisions over Bosnia between the US and its European allies, notably France and Britain. The US believes the Europeans' neutrality in the war has had the effect of consolidating Bosnian Serb gains, while the Europeans have faulted the US for advocating support for the Muslims without regard to the possibility that this could spark a wider Balkan war.

Also, the US has been privately fuming over reports that the release by the Bosnian Serbs of the UN hostages captured at the end of May was prompted in part by secret negotiations by France with the Serbian commanders.

It has been clear for a long time that the Bosnian government is acquiring weapons from abroad, but the suppliers have never been identified. Experts believe the Bosnian forces may be receiving some arms from Islamic countries, channelled through Croatia, which has unusually warm relations with Iran, among other states.

The Bosnian forces are also thought to be buying equipment on the international arms market with funds put up by friendly governments. In recent months there have been many rumours but no direct proof of secret US arms deliveries.

The US stopped participating last year in the enforcement of the UN embargo, but the Clinton administration has parried efforts in Congress to provide open military aid to the Bosnian government. If President Bill Clinton had decided to set up a clandestine arms pipeline to Bosnia, he would have been obliged by law to inform senior congressional leaders.

There has been much less secrecy about the role played by US military advisers in Bosnia. They have contributed to the increasingly impressive performance of the Muslim-led forces on the battlefield.

The Bosnian government, meanwhile, said yesterday it wanted nothing more to do with Yasushi Akashi, the special UN envoy to former Yugoslavia, who is reviled in Sarajevo as an appeaser of the Serbs. "We do not speak to Akashi any more. Akashi is dead for us," said Hasan Muratovic, a government minister.

His remarks underlined the growing crisis facing the UN operation in Bosnia, which has failed to prevent the Bosnian Serbs from cutting the aid lifeline to Sarajevo and forcing the collapse of the heavy weapons exclusion zone around the capital.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms