France behind Srebrenica massacre, says YU minister

BELGRADE, Feb 12, 2000 -- (Reuters) A Yugoslav official accused France on Friday of masterminding a notorious massacre of Moslems in Bosnia in 1995 to pave the way for NATO-led peacekeepers to enter the former Yugoslav republic.

Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic told a news conference that French intelligence was behind the massacre of Moslem men in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, seen as the worst atrocity in Europe since World War Two.

"We can openly say that the authors of the idea were French-Moslem circles and their secret ties and that the complete event was initiated by the French Secret Service," said Matic, a senior official in Yugoslavia's leftist-nationalist government.

His version of events contrasted sharply with the widely held assessment abroad that Bosnian Serb leaders perpetrated the Srebrenica slaughter. Bosnian Serb forces overran the town in July 1995 and a massacre of up to 8,000 Moslem men followed.

The UN war crimes tribunal in 1995 indicted wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic for genocide over the massacre. Both men remain at at large.

Matic alleged that the French had worked together with "their Moslem counterparts" and that a part of the Bosnian Serb Army, the 10th anti-terrorist brigade, was also involved.

"The whole operation was planned and organized in the triangle of French secret service plus General (Philippe) Morillon, Alija Delimustafic (ex-Bosnian police chief) and Naser Oric (Moslem commander of forces defending Srebrenica)."

Matic also asserted that two members of an alleged French-backed Serb paramilitary group called Pauk (Spider) were involved. Matic has earlier alleged that the group had also planned to assassinate Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Matic also gave a lower figure of the number of Moslem men killed in the Srebrenica massacre.

"Some 1,200 mostly captured Moslem fighters were killed in Srebrenica in that really grave massacre," he said, adding that the French had planned all that in order to end the Bosnian war with NATO troops entering the country.

He said that the Serb 10th anti-terrorist brigade was misled by French intelligence and others involved in planning the massacre and that it had also been used to "demonize Mladic."

"The agreement was that Srebrenica should surrender to the Serb forces without fighting, that Oric should leave with his troops and that the 10th brigade should kill the remaining people in Srebrenica," Matic said, saying this also happened.

He said the allegations were based on testimonies Yugoslav authorities had received from arrested Pauk members.

Matic first mentioned the shadowy group last November, telling a news conference that it had planned an attempt to kill Milosevic.

"Thanks to new information we got from members of Pauk terrorist-intelligence group we are now in a position to put more light on the circumstances and provide evidence on how the massacre in Srebrenica was staged," he said on Friday.

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