Nato angers UN in Bosnia arms mystery

FROM RICHARD DOWDEN

in Washington

Senior commanders in the United Nations peace-keeping force in Yugoslavia were still at loggerheads with Nato yesterday over reports that military cargo aircraft have been secretly dropping supplies to the Bosnian army at Tuzla.

The drops, on four occasions this month, were seen by about 20 UN observers, including the British head of the Unprofor intelligence unit, known as G2. But Nato - its Awacs radar reconnaissance planes are supposed to monitor the no-fly zone over Bosnia - says it has no evidence of the flights. The row is the most serious rift yet between the two and will further undermine the credibility of the UN operation in Bosnia if, as senior UN commanders are reported to suspect, the US is clandestinely resupplying the Bosnian army with hi-tech weaponry.

Senior Western sources said on Saturday that the Nato Secretary General, Willy Claes, is expected to make a statement today. One source admitted, however, that if there is an agreed UN-Nato statement one side will have to back down. At the moment there is no sign of that.

A senior Western military source said: "If the US is supplying the Bosnia government, no one in [Nato] knows but then the US wouldn't tell them. It would have to be deniable, but if it comes out quite a few people will walk out. It would be so embarrassing."

UN observers say that on 10, 12, 17 and 23 February "transport type aircraft of C-130 or like size" were heard near West Tuzla airbase between 6 and 9pm. The planes, escorted by fighter aircraft, appeared to be making a low-level parachute drop, a manoeuvre performed only by US, British or French air forces.

According to a report by Lieutenant-General Bertrand de Lapresle, the UN commander in former Yugoslavia, the incidents on 10 and 12 February were assessed to have been "two clandestine resupplies" of "high-value/high- technology guided missiles or perhaps surface to air missiles". Nato has denied all knowledge of the flights and questioned the reports' accuracy.

What has infuriated UN commanders is that whereas Nato has previously accepted UN reports of flights and included them as valid sightings in its own reports, this time Nato has gone out of its way to discredit them.

UN officials are reported to suspect a US clandestine operation in which the Nato Awacs were told not to fly at certain times, the mystery aircraft gave them the "friendly" signal, or the CIA, knowing the flight pattern of the Awacs, timed the flights to coincide with a blind spot. Sources say there is speculation a proxy air force is being used, possibly Turkish.

According to the Washington Post last Tuesday, Nato officials said the Awacs were not flying on 10 or 12 February. Yesterday, however, a Nato spokesman said the planes would almost certainly have been covering the airfield and would have spotted a fixed-wing aircraft.

Senior US officials deny any US aircraft are involved in secret flights.One suggested that if the flights were real, they might be from a Muslim country friendly to Bosnia such as Iran. He dismissed the idea that Turkey might be involved as "dubious". But the official also admitted it was not in the Americans' interest to impose the arms embargo and the administration, under pressure from Congress, wants it lifted.

President Bill Clinton must stick by the UN and his allies or give in to Congress - unless he can make the arms embargo irrelevant by ensuring the Bosnians have what they need, or at least can hold out until the UN withdraws and the embargo is lifted.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine