British aid convoy leaves

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A British civilian aid convoy was heading for Yugoslavia yesterday as the Government confirmed it had agreed to fly casualties from the civil war for treatment in Britain.

Eleven lorries and vans accompanied by 24 private cars, led by Dai Llewellyn, the veteran socialite, set off from Surrey carrying 140 tons of donated food, clothes and toiletries and medical equipment worth pounds 75,000.

Organisers said the vehicles, with volunteer drivers, would travel 1,000 miles through France, Germany and Austria to Slovenia before splitting up in Zagreb to go on to refugee camps in northern Bosnia.

Sue Diamond, co-director, said: 'Everyone realises the dangers but they are willing to go. The UN says it will escort us if we have to go into any war zones.'

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office confirmed yesterday that after requests from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Government had agreed to fly casualties and the seriously ill from detention camps in northern Bosnia for treatment in British hospitals.

Plans are being made to fly out the first 80 civilian casualties from a detention camp and hospital in a northern Bosnian town. A Foreign Office spokesman said the mechanics of the flight were still being worked out but it was expected shortly.

The ICRC said: 'We are sorting out the technicalities. Nothing is decided 100 per cent. The plan to fly out the first detainees is the first step of an overall operation to evacuate all the detention camps.' Britain may take part in further operations.

The injured in the unnamed Bosnian town have gunshot wounds and mortar injuries. Others need treatment for tuberculosis and malnutrition. Medicine and food are running short.

Twenty-two Bosnians were on their way to Britain yesterday in a bus sent out by two Scottish churches. Another bus from Hull, which had 33 Bosnians on board, is returning without the refugees after Hungarian border guards refused to let them enter Hungary because paperwork for their Austrian visas was incomplete.