Islamic "freedom fighters" from Iran and other Muslim countries continue to run a string of training camps in central Bosnia, despite an agreement under the Dayton peace accord that such foreign forces be expelled from Bosnia and the training camps closed, according to Western and Bosnian officials.

Western officials said they believe that personnel from Iran's Interior Ministry are among those manning between five and seven camps in central Bosnia. The estimated 150 men in the camps, sources said, are engaged mainly in helping to build up a shadowy security organization established in January by Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic -- a unit whose existence also contravenes the Dayton deal.

During a follow-up conference to the Dayton negotiations in Rome last month, U.S. officials demanded that the security unit -- called the Agency for Investigation and Documentation -- be disbanded and its top two officials removed. So far, the Bosnian government has not complied.

On a broader level, U.S. officials said they are also concerned about growing Islamic influence on the army and security services of the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government.

A senior Bosnian official, asked about the camps, said he had received reports that Iranians continue to operate training facilities in his country despite a Dayton provision that they all should have left Bosnia by Jan. 19. Bosnia's former foreign minister and current U.N. representative, Mohamed Sacirbey, was recently summoned to Bosnia from New York to handle the problem, sources said.

Local officials and Muslim residents near Orasac, a village in central Bosnia, said one of the camps was located there. Bosnian Muslim police and a man in plainclothes refused reporters entry into the village on Tuesday.

The United States has made the removal of Iranian and other foreign Islamic forces from Bosnia a priority, demanding that the foreigners leave before a U.S. program to train and equip the Bosnian army can begin. U.S. officials say they are worried about potential terrorist attacks against the 20,000 U.S. troops currently in Bosnia as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping operation. Some sources pointed to a trip last weekend to Tehran by Prime Minister Hasan Muratovic, which government officials said was to broaden cultural and economic ties with Iran. Intelligence and diplomatic sources discounted, however, a recent report that Bosnian soldiers had been trained in light-infantry tactics in Iran.

The existence of the training camps and the establishment of the Agency for Investigation and Documentation have strained relations between the Muslim-dominated government and its Croat partners in the Bosnian Muslim-Croat federation. Federation President Kresimir Zubak, a Croat, criticized Izetbegovic last month for forming the investigative agency, writing in an open letter that it was "in direct opposition to the constitution of the federation and the law."

Bosnia's federal constitution mandates that all police functions fall under the control of the federal Interior Ministry. The Agency for Investigation and Documentation appears to be independent of such control, answering instead to Izetbegovic and his Party of Democratic Action. The Bosnian president's recent heart ailment has complicated the U.S. efforts to remove the freedom fighters and close the agency.

It was not clear how many people work for the agency. Officials said it is run by Bekir Alispahic, Bosnia's former interior minister. Alispahic is reputedly one of the most powerful men in Izetbegovic's inner circle. During the early stages of Bosnia's 3 1/2-year civil war, he ran special police units that protected Sarajevo from Serb assaults. He also led an attack on renegade Muslim units in Sarajevo in late 1993, crushing a rebellion. Since then he has cultivated close ties with the Iranian government.

Links between Alispahic's agency and Iran were revealed as a result of a NATO raid Feb. 15 on a ski chalet near Fojnica in central Bosnia, NATO officials said.

A multinational strike force of American, French and British NATO troops descended on an isolated winter valley, uncovering what they called a terrorist training camp and capturing explosives, weapons and three Iranians, who sources said were employees of the Interior Ministry in Tehran. One Iranian carried a diplomatic passport.

The Bosnians claimed that the Fojnica camp was set up as an anti-terrorist unit. But NATO officials contradict that report.

"This was not in line with anti-terrorist work," a NATO intelligence source said. "The training was much more offensive than defensive."

The senior Bosnian government official confirmed that Alispahic controls the secret agency. "All of this goes through the same chain of command," he said, "{from} Bekir Alispahic."

U.S. military and diplomatic officials demanded that Izetbegovic remove Alispahic and his deputy from their posts when they met with the president in Rome two weeks ago. In an interview, Ejup Ganic, Bosnia's acting president during Izetbegovic's illness, declined to answer questions about any personnel changes since then. He said the government "was talking" about possible changes.

Western officials say they believe that Izetbegovic and Muslim nationalists intend to use the agency as a security service for his political party -- to harass and investigate political opponents and, in the long run, help create conditions for a separate Muslim state in Bosnia.

Iran has long backed the idea of a purely Muslim state in Bosnia as a potential springboard for its interests and influence among the growing number of Muslims in Europe.

A senior NATO official, speaking about the continued presence of foreign Islamic fighters in Bosnia, said he is particularly concerned about the issue because Izetbegovic appeared to have lied about it to NATO officials.

In a meeting in mid-January, weeks before NATO's raid on the Iranian-run camp, NATO Secretary General Javier Solano and U.S. Navy Adm. Leighton W. Smith Jr., the top NATO commander in Bosnia, told Izetbegovic about the Fojnica facility and demanded that it be shut. Izetbegovic denied that such a camp existed. Only after the raid occurred did Izetbegovic acknowledge the existence of such camps.

During the Rome summit, his government also assured U.S. officials that the issue would be dealt with.

"Apparently they lied again," a U.S. official said.

Sources said camps similar to the one reported to be near Orasac exist in rural areas near Tuzla, Zenica and Travnik in central Bosnia.

Orasac is located on a wooded hillside north of Travnik, in an area dotted with Muslim and Croat villages. Islamic "freedom fighters" first established a camp inside a 19th-century Catholic monastery in the nearby village of Guca Gora. After the United States brokered a deal ending a year of fighting between the Muslims and Croats in March 1994, the foreign fighters left the monastery and allowed its three priests to return.

Tomislav Rajic, a local Croat official, said three Islamic fighters still live in Guca Gora, including a man he identified as Hamza. Mio Markovic, a worker at the monastery, said that Middle Eastern men come by the gates occasionally and threaten to kill him if he continues to ring the church bells.

A Western source said that after leaving Guca Gora the Islamic fighters moved their camp to Orasac, across a valley about two miles away.

On Feb. 15, when NATO troops stormed the ski chalet near Fojnica, they also raided Orasac, a senior NATO officer said. The officer said "certain foreign elements" were found in Orasac, but the men had Bosnian passports. No weapons were uncovered and the men were not detained.

The Orasac raid, which NATO did not disclose at the time, underscored another problem for the United States as it seeks to remove Iranian and other foreign personnel from Bosnia. As head of the Interior Ministry and the main liaison with the Islamic groups, Alispahic had the ability to issue Bosnian passports to Islamic fighters. This he apparently did in large numbers, Western sources said.

Becir Kusmanovic, a Muslim farmer who lives near Orasac, said the camp is still active.

"It is closed off up there. Not even we villagers can go up there and see what they are doing," he said. "It is all a big secret."