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Page last updated at 03:48 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 04:48 UK

US general 'sorry' for Dutch gay soldier remark

Gen John Sheehan at the US Senate, 18 March
Gen Sheehan is a former Nato Supreme Allied Commander

A retired US general has apologised for suggesting that Dutch troops failed to stop the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995 because some of them were gay.

Gen John Sheehan acknowledged that his views had been wrong, after the Dutch general he cited as his source denied having said anything of the kind.

He made the claim at a Senate hearing on whether openly gay people should be allowed to serve in the US military.

The comments caused a storm of controversy in the Netherlands.

Srebrenica was a UN safe haven under the protection of Dutch peacekeepers when, in 1995, Bosnian Serb forces overran the town, killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.

To be clear, the failure on the ground in Srebrenica was in no way the fault of the individual soldiers
Retired Gen John Sheehan

Earlier this month, Gen Sheehan - a former Nato commander - cited retired Gen Henk van den Breemen as one of the Dutch army chiefs who had allegedly said that gays were "part of the problem" in the fall of Srebrenica.

He told a US congressional hearing that European armies had been weakened by efforts to "socialise" them, including allowing gay soldiers to serve.

But in an e-mail to Gen Breemen released by the Dutch defence ministry, Gen Sheehan said: "I am sorry that my recent public recollection of those discussions of 15 years ago inaccurately reflected your thinking on some specific social issues in the military."

He added: "To be clear, the failure on the ground in Srebrenica was in no way the fault of the individual soldiers."

A spokesman for the Dutch defence minister welcomed the apology, saying he was "satisfied" and "very pleased that the case is closed".



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