CEOL - Yugoslavs accuse Nobel-winning aid group of spying

BELGRADE, Dec 21, 1999 -- (Reuters) Yugoslavia on Monday accused the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid agency, winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, of "legalized espionage" and the chief U.N. administrator in Kosovo of being "involved in plain business".

"Medecins Sans Frontieres reports ... in fact serve as a framework for a kind of legalized espionage activities in the countries where they are present," Goran Matic, federal information minister, told a news conference.

In the third public attack by Yugoslav authorities on Bernard Kouchner in less than a month, Matic reminded reporters of the U.N. administrator's former links with MSF and accused him of "thievery and mafia-style behavior in Kosovo today".

Kouchner has led a NATO-backed U.N. administration in Kosovo since Serbian troops and police were forced by NATO bombing to vacate the Yugoslav province, ending a Serbian purge of its rebellious, majority ethnic Albanian population.

Yugoslavia's relations with the West have been tense for much of the past seven years since it was slapped with U.N. sanctions over its involvement in Bosnia's war. But the mood turned downright hostile during NATO's 11-week air war against Yugoslavia and has remained so with tough sanctions continuing. Matic showed English-language texts that he described as MSF reports from Bosnia, the ex-Yugoslav republic whose nationalist Serb community fought to scuttle its independence from Belgrade in the 1992-95 conflict there.

The reports, which bore no sign of MSF or any other logo, included military data which Matic said MSF, the international medical aid organization that won the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize, had been collecting in Bosnia.

"Their (MSF) role has not changed in Kosovo," he said.

Matic Accuses Kouchner Of Profit Motive In Kosovo

Matic, a prominent member of Belgrade's leftist-nationalist government, accused Kouchner of neglecting his mission in Kosovo and being "simply involved in plain business" instead.

"It's trade in Kosovo we're talking about. Kouchner issues tax-exclusion documents for importing humanitarian aid, later to be sold as any other kind of commercial stuff in order to make a profit," Matic said.

He also accused Kouchner of being "a frontman of a separatist organization", an allusion to the former guerrilla Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), which formally disbanded in September by agreement with NATO peace troops in the province.

Yugoslav officials insist the KLA survives in other guises, preying on Kosovo's dwindling Serb minority.

"The result of his acts are those appalling figures: Bernard Kouchner and the United Nations have blessed the expulsion of more than 200,000 Serbs and non-Albanians from Kosovo, the killing of 500 and kidnapping of 600 of them," Matic said.

"Kouchner is controlled by French intelligence services," Matic charged, adding to an accusation he made earlier about Kouchner's role in an alleged Serb paramilitary group called "Spider", which he said was backed by French secret services.

On Saturday, the Paris newspaper Le Monde said Jacques Dewatre, head of France's foreign secret services division (DGSE), would be replaced following criticism that his organization had badly performed in Yugoslavia.

"DGSE's failures (in Serbia) were the straw that broke the camel's back", the influential daily said of the reasons for Dewatre's ouster.

Matic did not refer to this report but said he hoped Kouchner would also be sacked soon. "And we hope that Yugoslavia is not far from being in position to demand his extradition."

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