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Businesses in Bosnia, Yugoslavia Asked Not to Help Iraq - 2002-10-22

The United States is calling on authorities in Yugoslavia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to take action against firms it says have been providing military assistance to Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions. The companies are said to have been helping Iraq refurbish its aging fleet of military aircraft.

Officials here say the United States has "clear evidence" that two companies, one in Bosnia's Serb Republic and the other in Yugoslavia, have been providing Iraq with aviation spare parts and expertise, and they are calling on authorities in both countries to investigate and halt the activity.

The State Department identified the firms involved as Orao Aviation, based in the autonomous Serb area of the Bosnian federation, and a Yugoslav company called YugoImport.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says the United States has presented the governments there with information on the alleged transfers, and has been promised cooperation. "We presented this information to senior officials of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republika Srpska and the government of Yugoslavia. The officials have pledged a full investigation of these allegations. The U.S. expects the relevant authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia to undertake the necessary steps to immediately halt any on-going cooperation with Iraq, to conduct a thorough investigation, and to hold accountable those responsible," Mr. Boucher said.

Mr. Boucher gave few details of the transfers, but said the activity was of "serious concern" to U.S. officials.

He said the assistance to Iraq violated Gulf War U.N. sanctions, as well as the Bosnian Serb republic's obligation under the Dayton accords to keep the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia informed of military exports.

He said under questioning that the United States had no information that the Balkans governments had known of the trade with Iraq, and that U.S. officials were awaiting responses from Sarajevo and Belgrade before deciding whether to impose trade penalties against the two companies.