U.N. peacekeepers and Western soldiers in Sarajevo spent as much time spying on one another during the Bosnian war as they did eavesdropping on parties to the conflict, a British officer said Friday.

His comments came a day after the Washington Post reported allied leaders had aborted a plan to capture former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic last summer because of fears the operation had been compromised by a French army officer."Sarajevo was a nest of spies, but seldom have so many produced so little of use," said a former senior British officer who had long experience in Bosnia during the disastrous 1992-95 war.

"Distrust among Western powers ran so deep they expended as much effort monitoring one another as they did trying to figure out what the Muslims, Croats and Serbs were up to. Inevitably, public recriminations are now beginning," he said in an interview.

The Washington Post, citing U.S. officials, reported on Thursday that French Major Herve Gourmelon had been engaged in secret talks with Karadzic, a man twice indicted by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal.

Paris rejected the charges.

"The Defense Ministry thinks that the action of this officer did not compromise any arrest of Radovan Karadzic at all and refutes categorically the allegations," ministry spokesman Pierre Bayle said in a statement.

Le Monde has reported extensively that France is trying to persuade Karadzic to surrender to the U.N. Tribunal.