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Conspiracy Claimed in Iranian Troop Charges
Muhamed Sacirbey Denies Iranian
Hit Squads, Troops, Training

Muhamed Sacirbey SARAJEVO, April 28 (Reuters) — Opponents of a U.S. effort to equip and train Bosnian Army troops are conspiring to block the program by planting stories about assassination teams and Iranian troops, Bosnia's U.N. ambassador charged on Sunday. "There are some who don't like (anybody to) 'equip and train' within the region, within Europe and even within the United States," Muhamed Sacirbey told Reuterss in Sarajevo.

"I think the issue in Bosnia is not so much age-old ethnic rivalries as it is European imperial rivalries that have now lasted for over a century." Sacirbey, visibly angry, spoke after a spate of recent press accounts that alleged military and intelligence ties between Bosnia and Iran, and cited unnamed western officials. The Dayton peace agreement which brought an end to 43 months of war in Bosnia late last year, required all foreign forces to depart the country in January.

Hundres of Millions on Hold
Hundreds of millions of dollars in military training and assistance is on hold pending final confirmation that foreign forces have left. The assistance has been organized by the United States and is intended to bring Bosnian government forces up to parity with other regional armies. A New York Times story last week said five Bosnians arrested recently in Croatia were an Iranian-trained hit squad planning to assassinate renegade Muslim leader Fikret Abdic.

"There are no hit squads or Iranian troops or instructors here. This information is inaccurate," Sacirbey said. "Why are these stories being spread? Bosnia is the primary U.S. relationship in the Balkans. It upsets some other relationships which have existed since before World War One. Unfortunatelty, I think some American officials blindly accept what is fed to them by people, groups and countries that are not inclined to see this U.S.-Bosnia relationship develop."

Britain, France and Russia, who have all been deeply involved in diplomatic efforts to resolve the Bosnian war and implement a secure peace, have made no secret of their opposition to the U.S. "equip and train" program. Where the U.S. believes that a balance of power and improved Bosnian government self-defence capability is the key to regional stability, critics say the proposed program would only shovel more arms into Europe's tinderbox.

Europe Said to Discourage U.S. Role
Bosnian government sources argue that major European powers simply don't want the United States to emerge with the whiphand in the Balkans through strong ties with Bosnia. NATO officers on peace implementation duty in Bosnia report that some foreign Islamic soldiers, including Iranians, remain in the country in violation of the Dayton accord. But Bosnian government officials say foreign military units were disbanded and that the individuals who remain have married local women and settled permanently as citizens.

"We've given information about those individuals to the United States and it has never been identified as something we had to alter," Sacirbey said. "The people are known, the numbers are known, the locations are known -- they're closely monitored."

Sarajevo's credibility on the issue was severely damaged in February when NATO forces raided what they termed a "terrorist training camp" in central Bosnia, complete with Iranian instructors and students from a government intelligence agency. Bosnian government officials argued the camp was for "counter-terrorist" training and was being shut down. The head of the central government's shadowy Agency for Investigation and Documentation (AID) lost his job over the incident at the insistence of the United States.

"The United States had a right to be disappointed when that base was uncovered," Sacirbey admitted. "Now we are the ones who are justifiably angry. Our attitude is basically put up or shut up. If you (the international community) have something that needs to be addressed we will work with you. But don't keep leaking information into the press through anonymous sources, (about) people who can't be identified and information that can't be verified one way or the other."

Additional resources
Apr 27 · Ambassador Angered over Covert Forces Charges
Apr 26 · Bosnia's PM Denies Iranian Presence
11 Arrested in "Terrorist Training Camp"

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