Yugoslavia Denies Helping Iraq
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BELGRADE, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The Yugoslav president denied Thursday that Serbian military experts were helping Saddam Hussein organize his air defenses against U.S. attacks.
Vojislav Kostunica did not, however, rule out individual citizens having private deals to assist Baghdad.
``Anything to do with weapons is a lucrative challenge for some people,″ Kostunica told The Associated Press. ``Even the Americans uncovered some of their own citizens (fighting for the Taliban) in Afghanistan.″
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, now on trial at the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, allied himself with the Iraqi president. But Kostunica said the country has since severed those links.
``That kind of official cooperation existed before,″ he said. ``I’m sure it does not exist now.″
British and local media have alleged that Yugoslav radar and weapons systems experts were using their experience during the 1999 NATO air strikes in Yugoslavia to help Iraq organize air defenses.
Yugoslav air defense protected military targets in Kosovo and shot down two U.S. aircraft, including an F-117 Nighthawk, the world’s first operational ``stealth″ attack plane.
Under Milosevic, Yugoslavia maintained close military links with Saddam’s regime, servicing Iraqi air force MiG jets near Belgrade and taking part in the construction of Iraqi military facilities, including bunkers in presidential palaces in Baghdad.
The Yugoslav Army this week denied continued military aid to the Iraqis, saying the country’s goal is to forge close ties with NATO.