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Bosnia: U.S. Says Arms Efforts Legitimate

Washington, 6 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - The U.S. State Department Friday dismissed news reports that Bosnian Muslims are secretly arming and training for war.

Spokesman James Rubin said the United States does not believe that the Sarajevo government is engaged in a covert rearming effort outside a U.S.-led international program to supply and train the Bosnian army. That program was designed to equalize the military balance of power in the region.

Rubin said NATO forces control the airspace and patrol the roads and would be in a position to detect and seize illegal arms deliveries but have no evidence of secret shipments.

Rubin said the U.S. and 12 other countries have been training and equipping Bosnian Muslim forces and the combined Bosnia-Croat army for more than a year and have been public and open about it.

He said Bosnian Serbs have visited storage depots and been invited to watch training exercises.

Rubin said the U.S. is providing $100 million worth of equipment, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, as well as small arms, communications equipment, and computers for training.

He said Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have also donated equipment, including Howitzers, field guns, anti-aircraft guns, tanks, and reconnaissance vehicles.

The Muslim member of Bosnia's collective presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, Friday also denied the report of clandestine arms efforts. In a statement, Izetbegovic added that Bosnian Muslims have no intention of attacking anyone.