US `secretly giving aid and training to Bosnian military'

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The Independent Online
There is evidence that the United States is clandestinely assisting the Bosnian government forces, Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, said yesterday His comments came as Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence, announced that 15 Chinook, Lynx and Gazelle helicopters and additional UN observers were being committed for six months to implement the ceasefire and help separate the combatants.

Mr Rifkind said others must respond to the UN request for help and grasp "the opportunities which the cessation of hostilities agreement presents for a durable, properly negotiated peace settlement".

Mr Ashdown, back from a week's visit to the former Yugoslavia, said that it was clear that the Bosnian military capability had increased.

He said: "I had a specific claim from a very high level UN officer that they have clandestinely been receiving aid from the United States, both equipment and training aid." He added that Lieutenant General Sir Michael Rose, the UNPROFOR commander, had specifically denied this, and that any such aid on equipment might be restricted to "looking the other way" as Arab-financed and commercially bought arms were brought in. But two senior UN officers were "absolutely convinced that specific assistance is get ting through". While welcoming the four-month ceasefire, Mr Ashdown remained pessimistic unless peace talks make real progress before it ends.

The Bosnians feared "a repeat of Cyprus" where the ceasefire lines became the effective border, leaving an unviable rump Bosnia which could be carved up between Croatia and Serbia. And while the Bosnians had to be "disabused" of their belief that they could take on the Serbs and win, they still had the military forces to keep the lines fluid if hostilities broke out again.

n Sarajavo (AFP) - Bosnian government and Serb authorities began an exchange of prisoners, yesterday, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported.