27 September 2004. Thanks to A.
By Harry de Quetteville and Hugh Griffiths in Belgrade
British spies across the Balkans are being moved after they were publicly identified in a number of media reports planted by disgruntled local intelligence services.
The Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6, has been forced to withdraw its chief officer in the Serb capital, Belgrade, and another spy in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, is about to leave.
A third man, who has also been branded a British spy in the Balkans, this week left the office of the High Representative in Bosnia, Lord Ashdown, to take up a post elsewhere.
A further two British intelligence officers working in the Croatian capital, Zagreb, have so far remained in place despite their cover being blown in the local press.
The series of exposes in the three capitals has markedly undermined British intelligence operations in the Balkans, previously thought to have played a vital role in the handover of the former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague.
But the continuing efforts of SIS officers to capture The Hague's most wanted men have riled many local intelligence agencies in the Balkans, some of which are suspected of continuing ties to alleged war criminals.
The SIS is heavily involved in the hunt for the former Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, and military commander, Gen Ratko Mladic, who are linked to a vast range of war crimes including the murder of Srebrenica's surrendering male population and organising the siege of Sarajevo.
Also being sought is the main Croatian war crimes suspect, Ante Gotovina, who is accused of forcing 150,000 Serbs from their homes in 1995.
"MI6 operated not so much a spy network as a network of influence within Balkan security services and the media," said James Lyon, the director of the International Crisis Group in Serbia and Bosnia.
"It is some of those people who are now upset."
In Serbia, the SIS station chief, Anthony Monckton, was forced to leave his post last month after a campaign against him led by country's DB intelligence agency, where his work investigating the 2003 assassination of the reformist prime minister Zoran Djindjic won him few friends.
In Croatia, the willingness of the government to accede to British requests to bring eavesdropping equipment into the country, and launch large-scale listening campaigns in the hunt for war criminals has irked elements of its counter-intelligence service, the POA.
In both countries, senior local officials are thought to have leaked the names of the British spies to newspapers and magazines, which then printed their details.
In the case of Mr Monckton, his photograph was published on the cover of Serbian magazine Nedelnji Telegraf, with a copy of his business card.
The disagreement between SIS officers in the Balkans and their local counterparts surfaced in February when the former number two in the Serbian DB, Zoran Mijatovic, published a book that included Mr Monckton's name and picture.
In Croatia, tensions were building over Britain's opposition to the country's accession to the European Union, scheduled for 2008, on the grounds that it was not doing enough to hunt down Gen Gotovina. But in April, Britain's resistance to Croatia's EU talks suddenly evaporated.
The British U-turn has been explained as part of a deal allowing the SIS to import vanloads of monitoring equipment and begin a widespread bugging campaign to capture Gen Gotovina.
Details of the alleged deal were published over the summer, and Croatian government sources claim that details were fed to a magazine by Franjo Turek, who was ousted as the head of the POA after resisting SIS demands for increased access.
"People in POA thought that British intelligence was using the Gotovina issue to gain a strong influence over the Croatian intelligence services," said Berislav Jelinic, an expert on Balkan intelligence affairs.
"Turek was under a great deal of pressure from the British and when he asked MI6 how Gotovina threatened British national security the British started to consider him an obstacle and he was replaced."
Croatia's prime minister, Ivo Sanader, mindful of the objective of EU membership, replaced Mr Turek with Josko Podbevsek, who proved more receptive to British intelligence requests.
But since then Croatian sources have said the scope of the British operation is such that even senior Croatian government politicians are nervous about using their mobile phones for fear of being bugged.
In August, the combined ill-will against SIS in Croatia and Serbia resulted in a rash of media exposes that ultimately forced the replacement of the SIS officers.
In Serbia, Mr Monckton was first targeted by Nedelnji Telegraf, which has close ties to the DB, on Aug 11, then again in the following week's issue.
The week after that, Nacional magazine in Zagreb published a story headlined "British spies occupying Croatia", including a cover that featured a mock-up of Mr Sanader, whom it accused of pandering to the SIS, in a tuxedo posing as James Bond.
In Sarajevo, the exposure of British intelligence officers was carried out using the pages of Slobodna Bosna magazine, which has reported that SIS carried out a similar widespread bugging operation in Bosnia as in Croatia.
The weekly also reported that SIS used the Bosnian secret agency Foss to spy on investigators for the war crimes tribunal, in addition to Lord Ashdown's American deputy, Donald Hayes.
The director of Foss, Ivan Vuksic, allegedly passed information from a source in Mr Hayes's office to SIS.
But it is the former Foss chief, Munir Alibabic, whom many in Sarajevo suspect of bearing a grudge against SIS and leaking details of its operations to Slobodna Bosna. Mr Alibabic was sacked by Lord Ashdown in 2002, reportedly on the advice of SIS.