US denies sending weapons to Muslims

BOSNIA CRISIS: ARMS EMBARGO

Moving to head off new trouble to the strained Western alliance over Bosnia, a top State Department official yesterday flatly denied reports that Washington was secretly orchestrating shipments of arms to the Muslim government, in defiance of the existing United Nations embargo. The reports of clandestine weapons deliveries, carried in the Washington Post, appeared within two days of the Senate's overwhelming vote requiring President Clinton unilaterally to scrap the ban if the UN allies did not agree to do so.

Richard Holbrooke, the Assistant Secretary of State, emphatically told Congress: "The US is not violating the embargo." Such accusations are not new: indeed for months there have been suggetions that the US is providing logistical assistance to allies in the Islamic world like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. But the Post's allegations were the most specific so far, quoting unnamed French and British officials who pointed to the activities of retired Major-General John Sewall, an official US adviser to Croat and Bosnian forces. Gen Sewall, said Mr Holbrooke, was "not co- ordinating military activity or covert assistance".

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