CIA report blames Serbs for 'ethnic cleansing'


WASHINGTON -- In what is believed to be the most comprehensive U.S. assessment of atrocities in Bosnia, the Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that 90 percent of the acts of "ethnic cleansing" were carried out by Serbs and that leading Serbian politicians almost certainly played a role in the crimes.

The CIA report, based on aerial photography and what one senior official called "an enormous amount of precise technical analysis," also concludes that while war crimes were by no means committed exclusively by Serbs, they were the only party involved in a systematic attempt to eliminate all traces of other ethnic groups from their territory.

The report, which is so sensitive one official said it was classified at "an obscene level," was completed early this year. One reason for the highly restricted nature of the report may be that it comes at a time when the United States and its European allies have embraced Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic as a potential peacemaker.

The Clinton administration may fear that wide dissemination of the report's findings could cause Mr. Milosevic to cease his cooperation, since the CIA's conclusions suggest that the Serbian leader is ill-fitted for the role of peacemaker.

The report's contents were made available to the New York Times by three separate American officials -- one in Europe and two in Washington -- whose accounts of it coincided. Two of them expressed unhappiness with the way American policy has evolved in the region.

Mark Mansfield, a spokesman for the CIA, said: "We do not comment on classified reports." But people close to the agency said that the report has been submitted to senior officials at the Pentagon, the State Department, and the National Security Council.

One official, reading from notes he took from the CIA report, quoted it as saying that "Serbs carried out at least 90 percent of the ethnic cleansings in Bosnia." Ethnic cleansing is the term generally used for the practice, common in the Bosnian war, of killing, forcibly evicting, and persecuting ethnic groups other than one's own.

The report, the official said, continued by saying that no "conclusive evidence" had been found of the direct involvement of Bosnian Serb or Serbian leaders in the planning and execution of large-scale ethnic cleansing.

"But," the report added, "the systematic nature of the Serbian actions strongly suggests that Pale and perhaps Belgrade exercised a carefully veiled role in the purposeful destruction and dispersal of non-Serb populations." The Bosnian Serb headquarters is in Pale.

The report, the officials said, also contains specific evidence that some Bosnian Serb leaders -- including Radovan Karadzic -- knew of the concentration camps through which many Muslims and Croats who had been evicted from their homes in 1992 were processed. The evidence includes instructions on admissions to the camps.

Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Karadzic have consistently denied any responsibility for the killing, eviction and imprisonment of Muslims in the 70 percent of Bosnia now held by the Serbs.

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