Aid for refugees flown to Albania

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The Independent Online
THE FIRST humanitarian flight took off yesterday from Sarajevo airport bound for the Albanian capital, Tirana, carrying relief for thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees who have fled the fighting in Kosovo.

The leading UN aid agency and Nato set up a limited airlift, carrying tents, jerrycans, mattresses, blankets and other non-food items to be distributed to the thousands of Kosovo Albanians who sought shelter in northern Albania by crossing the Yugoslav border.

Sarajevo itself survived the 1992-95 Bosnian Serb siege thanks to a UNHCR airlift - the longest in history. The aid items for the Albanians will come from stocks originally brought in for Bosnians. According to the UNHCR, this delivery to Tirana will not affect the Bosnian operation.

A Norwegian C-130 Hercules transport plane will make a total number of eight flights in four days, flying from Bosnia over Italian airspace to Albania. Permission to fly across Yugoslavia was not granted.

The UNHCR hopes other governments will follow by providing more aircraft, since the Norwegian aircraft will be needed elsewhere after four days. The agency also cares for tens of thousands of ethnic Albanians displaced inside Kosovo.

Some 500 tons of food were provided by the World Food Programme from their stocks. Albanian businessmen from Albania and abroad also have donated relief items to the refugees.

Due to the bad roads in Albania, the aid will probably be transported by helicopter from Tirana to the north of the country, where the refugees are settled.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme in Tirana said that it expected 500 tons of food to arrive by sea at the port of Durres yesterday, to be distributed among the Kosovo refugees in the north. - AP