Bosnia aid flights remain grounded

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The Independent Online
GENEVA (Agencies) - Mediators from the United Nations and the European Community yesterday discussed air protection for relief flights to Sarajevo but ended their talks with no immediate decision to resume the airlift of aid, which was suspended last week following the crash of an Italian transport plane near the city.

A spokesman for Cyrus Vance and Lord Owen, co-chairmen of the new UN-EC peace conference, said that the conference working group would meet again tomorrow. The two chairmen, who are to visit the former Yugoslavia this week, have invited all parties to the Bosnian conflict to attend tomorrow's meeting.

In Sarajevo, Serbian and Muslim forces fought battles around the airport yesterday. UN officials said that the fighting was so intense the airport would have remained closed even if the UN had decided that aid flights should resume. 'It will take us another 24 hours to open the airport once the green light is given,' one official said. Despite this, a British military plane was due to fly in today with oxygen bottles for hospitals.

Water supplies were restored to the besieged city yesterday but were then cut off again after three hours when Muslim forces attacked Serbian positions, according to UN officials. The city's 380,000 inhabitants are also desperately short of food, medical supplies and blankets as an early winter sets in. A UN official warned that the city would run out of food within three days unless fresh supplies made it in through Serbian siege lines.

Christiane Berthiaume, of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has issued an appeal for more trucks, saying the agency cannot get enough supplies to the city with the 66 vehicles it has. 'We need 150 (trucks) with the airlift and 250 without,' she said.

Adding to the problems, a UN supply warehouse was hit by a shell yesterday during one of the heaviest artillery attacks in Sarajevo for more than a week. The fighting claimed 13 lives in the 24 hours up to midday yesterday.

(Photograph omitted)

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