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[From the London 'Independent']

Belgrade helped in planning of Baghdad bombing

Attack on Iraq: Kostunica government provided vital information on Saddam's upgraded air defences before last week's US-British raid

By Kim Sengupta
22 February 2001

Vital information supplied by the pro-Western Yugoslav government of Vojislav Kostunica helped the United States and Britain to plan last Friday's air strikes on the outskirts of Baghdad, senior defence sources have revealed.

Belgrade passed on details of the hi-tech fibre-optic radar system supplied to Iraq under the Milosevic regime, which enabled Saddam Hussein significantly to upgrade his air defences and pose a serious threat to allied planes.

The network was being upgraded by Chinese technicians, in violation of UN sanctions on Iraq. The US asked China last night to explain reports of involvement by its workers.

In a further sign of the dramatic improvement in its relations with post-Milosevic Yugoslavia, Britain is considering offering Belgrade significant help over Kosovo. This includes possible joint patrols by British and Serbian troops to combat incursions into the Presevo valley by ethnic Albanian guerrillas; supporting plans to allow Serbian forces to operate in the 5km border buffer zone from which they are excluded; or even abolishing the zone altogether. The US and Britain had maintained that Friday's raids, which drew widespread international condemnation, were necessary because of the increasing danger to allied aircraft by the new advanced air defence system. [See 'Further Reading' at end of article]

The new system allowed the Iraqis to collate and communicate information on the movement of allied warplanes in total security, with the allies unable to intercept the signals. In the past the, Iraqis had to rely on the missile sites being linked only through telephones, making them much less effective.

The Saddam and Milosevic regimes had traditionally maintained a high level of military co-operation against the common enemy, the West. But British officials insisted yesterday that there was "absolutely no suggestion" thatthis had continued under President Kostunica.

A senior source said: "It is because of the new Kostunica regime that we got to know about it and we are learning about it. We have heard from Serbs who have actively been over there and built things in underground facilities in Iraq. It is now emerging that they were certainly helping under the Milosevic regime."

Although many senior Serbian military officials remain sympathetic towards their Iraqi counterparts, the government is believed to have convinced them strategic co-operation at the old level would greatly damage Serbia's efforts to jettison its pariah status.

The British Government sees this not only as a sign of the responsible attitude being taken by Mr Kostunica but also of the President's ability to control army strongmen.

While British military commanders concurred with the Americans that air strikes were necessary, the Foreign Office had opened channels to Iraq to organise a compromise that would allow the implementation of UN resolution 1284, which links the lifting of sanctions to the return of UN arms inspectors to Baghdad.

Messages from the British Government were passed to the Iraqis by the Qatari ambassador to London. As well as being appreciative of the Serbs for alerting them about Iraqi defence capabilities, British officials acknowledged the "restraint and responsibility" being shown by Serbs in the face of mounting provocation by the Albanian Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja and Bujanovac (UCPMB).

In the past week the Albanian guerrillas have been blamed for murdering seven Serb civilians and injuring 43 others in a bus bombing, and for the killing of three Serb policemen near the Kosovo border. The international force in Kosovo, K-For, acknowledges that the guerrillas use the buffer zone as a base.

Western anxieties about the rebels intensified earlier this month when a motorcade carrying two American envoys came under fire in the Presevo area. Referring to the possibility of joint patrols and abolishing the buffer, the senior source said: "I don't think we should shut our minds to that possibility.... There will be a tendency for these people [the UCPMB] to become more and more entrenched in the zone."

(c) 2001 'Independent' Reprinted for Fair Use Only


Further Reading...

The Anglo-U.S. command uses a carrot/stick approach to Yugoslavia. On the one hand, U.S. and British forces train, equip and provide air cover for the terrorists who press ever further into Serbia. (On the West's training of the terrorists, see 'Diplomats Admit NATO Backs KLA Invasion of Inner Serbia' at On Providing air cover, see 'Pentagon Dogs' at . ) The pro-Western Belgrade regime orders its officers to obey Western dictates not to shoot back. This is intended to break the Yugoslav Army. (See 'AMNESTY.... OR AMNESIA?' at

The Serbs have considerable technical and military skill. By threatening and terrorizing the Serbian people, the U.S. and England hope to increase the appeal of giving up and working for the West. As they say in 'Star Wars,' the Empire hopes to turn the Serbs to the Dark Side. See 'Djindjic Calls for Complete Yugoslav Submission to U.S.' at

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