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Hungarian officials implicated in Croatia arms deal

By ERIKA LASZLO

BUDAPEST, Hungary -- The director of a Hungarian munitions company said he sold 10,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles to Croatia with the approval of senior government officials, it was reported Thursday.

The disclosure by the general director of Technika, Tibor Miklos, came a day after a parliamentary committee learned that both Foreign Minister Geza Jeszensky and Interior Minister Peter Boross knew about the arms deal.

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The incident has strained relations between Hungary and Yugoslavia's federal government, which is fighting to keep Croatia and Slovenia within the country. Such arms deals are supposed to be cleared with the federal government.

Miklos told the Hungarian daily newspaper Nepszabadsag on Thursday that Col. Peter Kovacs of the Ministry of Defense ordered 30,000 Kalashnikovs from his deputy in Technika last October while he was abroad.

The export license was issued by the Ministry for International Economic Relations in October and the file carried a handwritten memo saying 'checked with Peter Boross, Erno Raffay and Laszlo Bogar on the phone.' The three men are members of the committee for the control of the sale of arms.

Miklos said that when he returned to Hungary he warned Peter Boross, who was state secretary at the time, that the deal might become politically embarrassing and asked him to halt the shipment.

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On the last day of October the Ministry for International Economic Relations stopped the delivery of machine guns but by then 10,000 Kalashnikovs worth $1.5 million ere already on their way to Croatia.

The deputy undersecretary for foreign affairs, Imre Szokai, denied having a part in the negotiations but admitted meeting Croatian government officials.

As late as last Saturday, Jeszenszky informed the Yugoslav ambassador that the sale was concluded without the knowledge of the Hungarian government.

The opposition has expressed dissatisfaction with the findings of the committees that uncovered government knowledged of the deal. The Young Democrats said that all the facts and names that could have helped reveal the truth were classified as business or state secrets.

No government official was made answerable for the arms deal by the findings. The statement issued after the meeting merely said there had been 'procedural mistakes' and 'errors in the public handling of the affair.'

The committees urged the government to avoid similar incidents of this kind and make efforts to 'strengthen ties between Hungary and Yugoslavia.'

The arms deal to Croatia has also increased friction among Yugoslavia's feuding republics. Croatia and Slovenia, who have declared their sovereignty from the rest of the country, have ignored federal orders to disarm their militia and Croatia's ruling Democratic Union has been accused of planning a revolt to reaize its demand for independence.

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