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BBC Bosnia mired in arms scandal

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  • Snezana Lazovic
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/2381095.stm Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 18:21 GMT Bosnia mired in arms scandal There may be a Balkan-wide network of
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 1, 2002
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      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/europe/2381095.stm

      Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 18:21 GMT
      Bosnia mired in arms scandal

      There may be a Balkan-wide network of arms traders

      By Alix Kroeger
      BBC regional analyst

      A raid by Nato-led peacekeepers in Bosnia two weeks ago uncovered what is beginning
      to look like a major Balkan network of traders selling weapons and military services
      to Iraq.

      Investigations are now under way in both Bosnia and in neighbouring Yugoslavia,
      where another company, Yugoimport, was accused of acting as the middleman.

      We do not know the extent of this matter, but my guess is that it is going to
      be very wide-ranging... and it's going to extend into areas which will surprise us

      Lord Ashdown

      Last week, a ship seized by the Croatian authorities was found to be carrying
      gunpowder used in military weapons.

      It has yet to be established whether the cargo was bound for Iraq - but that was the
      tip-off the Croatian authorities said they received from one of their allies.

      The ship's crew come from the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro.

      So far seven officials - two in Yugoslavia, five in Bosnia - have lost their jobs
      over the affair.

      There could be more - and worse - to come.

      A Yugoslav firm is accused of acting as sales agent

      The latest casualties were the Bosnian Serb defence minister and his chief of staff.

      When the story broke, they were actually on an official trip to Burma. They tendered
      their resignations on Monday night.

      An official statement said the two men had "no direct responsibility" for the
      violation of a United Nations (UN) arms embargo on Iraq by the Orao (Eagle) Aviation
      Institute.

      The government had been under pressure - particularly from the Americans - to act.

      Long inquiry

      It will be some time before the results of any investigations are known.

      Bosnia's international overseer, Lord Paddy Ashdown, is putting pressure on the
      Bosnian Serbs to carry out a full enquiry and ensure that whoever was responsible
      for the arms sales is held to account.

      Milosevic had close ties to the Iraqi regime

      The Nato-led stabilisation force S-For is examining the documents it seized during
      the raid on Orao two weeks ago.

      "We do not know the extent of this matter," Lord Ashdown said on Sunday.

      "But my guess is that it is going to be very wide-ranging, it's going to be
      regional. And it's going to extend into areas which will surprise us."

      Old ties

      The old Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which disintegrated during the
      1990s, had one of the strongest armies in Europe.

      It exported armaments all over the world. Most of its weapons factories were in
      Bosnia.

      Middle people are still there, they're still operating, and during the
      Milosevic regime, they were able to line their pockets

      Former S-For political analyst Bill Putnam

      Yugoslavia's former president, Slobodan Milosevic, cultivated ties with Iraq.

      After his overthrow two years ago, the coalition which replaced him has done little
      to tackle reform of the armed forces.

      The regime in Belgrade has changed - if not in Baghdad - but some of the old ties
      remain, according to Bill Putnam, formerly S-For political analyst.

      "What wasn't necessarily removed were some of the middle people, who were behind the
      scenes," he said.

      "They're still there, they're still operating, and during the Milosevic regime, they
      were able to line their pockets. I think in some ways you still have a lot of that
      going on, despite the fact that Milosevic is no longer in power and we do have a
      democratically elected government."

      Bosnia's weakness

      In Bosnia, part of the problem stems from the post-war system of government.

      Inter-ethnic co-operation in the former Yugoslavia has always flourished when
      there is money at stake - especially from the grey or black market

      The two highly autonomous entities, the Bosnian-Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat
      Federation, have most of the power, at the expense of the central state.

      The armed forces, in particular, are the responsibility of the entities.

      But if the UN rules that Bosnia has broken an arms embargo, it is the central state
      which will be held accountable.

      In the long run, these revelations could be used to strengthen the central
      government's powers, although it will be politically difficult to unify the armed
      forces under civilian control.

      Inter-ethnic co-operation

      The Deputy Prime Minister of neighbouring Serbia, Nebojsa Covic, has claimed that
      other Bosnian weapons firms also had links with Yugoimport.

      All of them are in the Muslim-Croat Federation.

      This is less surprising than it might seem. Inter-ethnic co-operation in the former
      Yugoslavia has always flourished when there is money at stake - especially from the
      grey or black market.

      Bill Putnam says there have been well-documented cases in Bosnia when Croats,
      Muslims and Serbs sold weapons to each other while they were actually at war.
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