Children and 'angel' land safely amid rows

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The Independent Online
SIX BOSNIAN children from Tuzla and a 24-year-old Mostar man were in Midlands hospitals last night after a two-day journey to safety. But nine Bosnians - children and adults - were left behind in confused circumstances, apparently prevented from leaving the war zones because of 'local difficulties'.

The airlift took place against a background of rows. One was between Sally Becker, dubbed the 'Angel of Mostar', and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees staff in Bosnia. The other involved a decision to use a civil aircraft rather than chartering an RAF one.

Ms Becker has complained of UN restrictions, but a UNHCR spokesman said yesterday: 'It's very easy for a person to come in, in a blaze of publicity, get all of the headlines and then leave and blame any hitches . . . on the UN and the permanent people here, as unfortunately on occasions Ms Becker has done.'

Ray Wilkinson, a UN spokesman in Sarajevo, said there was a generally favourable report on the highly publicised 'Operation Angel' rescues organised by Ms Becker, but acknowledged 'some adverse fall-outs'. He said 44 patients, mainly children, had been brought out, although UN doctors had drawn up a list of 89 needing urgent attention.

However, he added that the most serious 'fall-out' probably occurred during the weekend in Mostar. The Spanish battalion of the UN Protection Force did not have enough units to escort a badly needed food convoy into Mostar because it was tied up with evacuations. 'As a result, 92 metric tons of aid have been delayed into Mostar for at least two days,' Mr Wilkinson said. Mostar's last food delivery was on 16 December.

Ms Becker said on BBC television yesterday: 'Unfortunately, I was restricted weeks ago. I had to sign the UN selection agreement which meant I would not be able to select any people myself. It all had to be done through them, including beds at the other end.'

She later flew to Birmingham with the children, telling reporters: 'I have been told that one person from the UN said they could have done this without Sally Becker. If that is so, why did they not bloody well do so? I will continue . . . because there are people dying.'

RAF anger, page 2

Milosevic success, page 8

Bosnia appeal, page 11