PARIS, Dec 4, 1999 -- (Reuters) France acknowledged on Friday that a man arrested in Serbia on charges of spying for Paris and planning to assassinate President Slobodan Milosevic was a naturalized French citizen of Yugoslav origin.
Jugoslav Petrusic was one of five men arrested in Serbia last month as alleged members of a group called "Spider" that Belgrade said had plotted out four different scenarios for killing the Serbian strongman.
"He acquired French nationality by marriage in 1990," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret told journalists.
France has dismissed as absurd Belgrade's charge that it was behind the alleged plot, which officials in Paris said appeared linked to Serbian efforts to undermine the authority of France's Bernard Kouchner, the United Nations administrator in Kosovo.
But diplomats here noted that France had not publicly ruled out the possibility that Petrusic or the other four - all ethnic Serbs - might have had links with French intelligence.
Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic announced last week that Belgrade had caught the French spies "red-handed" and accused Paris of actively working over the past decade to dismantle the former Yugoslav Federation.
Matic also charged that the five had infiltrated Serbian forces in Kosovo, murdered ethnic Albanians and looted their houses - exactly the crimes that western states accused Belgrade of when they decided to intervene in Kosovo last spring.
The minister also accused Petrusic of involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Moslems.
Serbian television said at the time that Petrusic was also known as "Dominic Yugo," a nom-de-guerre linked to French intelligence operations in Africa.
According to the French dailies Liberation and Le Monde, "Dominic Yugo" recruited ethnic Serb mercenaries for an abortive bid to prevent the 1997 rebel overthrow of Zaire's President Mobutu Sese Seko.
"Dominic Yugo" has also been linked to veteran mercenary Bob Denard, who led coups in several African countries over the past 30 years with a band of mostly French mercenaries.
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