Starving Muslims weep as UN convoy breaks through: Morillon leads way down mined road

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The Independent Online
CROWDS of starving, desperate Muslims cheered and wept yesterday as a United Nations convoy finally reached the besieged eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica, bringing food and medicines for its 60,000 trapped inhabitants. But rebel Serbs appear to be tightening their grip around the besieged Muslim enclave.

When the convoy arrived, people were 'waving, clapping and crying,' Larry Hollingworth, a UN refugee official, said by amateur radio from the town.

The convoy, blocked for nine days on the Serbian side of the Drina River, was loaded with 175 tons of flour, sugar, cooking oil and high-protein biscuits. Its arrival was a triumph for the persistence and bravery of General Philippe Morillon, the UN commander in Bosnia, who had vowed not to leave the town until the aid got through. The 17 Swedish and Belgian trucks drove to Srebrenica on a road scattered with mines, with General Morillon in the lead vehicle.

'What General Morillon has done is truly heroic,' said Ron Redmond, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

But General Morillon said Srebrenica was close to being captured. 'The Muslims are losing terrain every day,' a UN military source said. 'They have a young commander who is prepared to fight to the last man. They don't have heavy weapons.'

The Serbian offensive on Srebrenica, one of the last Muslim-controlled towns iEn eastern Bosnia, prompted Bosnia's Muslim President, Alija IzetTHER write errorbegovic, to walk out of peace talks in New York on Thursday. It also led the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, to call for more US air drops of aid to the town.

People in Srebrenica had been forced to eat leaves to survive, Mr Hollingworth said. The town has no electricity and doctors are performing operations without anaesthetic. The UN spokeswoman said it was imperative another convoy be sent in, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

General Morillon, who set up a temporary headquarters in Srebrenica eight days ago, wants a secure air and land corridor established.

At the UN in New York, the Security Council edged towards agreement late last night on a resolution allowing Nato aircraft to shoot down any plane violating the no-fly zone over Bosnia. A majority of members favoured the resolution, drawn up by France, though no vote is expected until Monday.

In London, Malcolm Rifkind, Secretary of State for Defence, said Britain also supported the no-fly zone, but he stopped short of saying British aircraft would take part.

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