EC hands out pounds 40 in aid for each refugee

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The Independent Online
A DAY after the arrival at the European Community's border of the first refugee train from the former Yugoslavia, EC foreign ministers, apparently bereft of new ideas, concluded another discussion of the crisis.

The ministers, meeting in Brussels, decided that 120m Ecu (pounds 83m) of emergency aid earmarked for what was Yugoslavia should be distributed immediately. Disbursement of the aid was delayed by a row over whether it could be used only to buy food and by Greece's insistence that it should not be sent to Macedonia.

A British spokesman yesterday conceded that the package represents only about pounds 40 per refugee, but insisted that the United Nations and the EC states would also chip in. 'The Community's role is to help, to help significantly, where it's needed,' he added.

The ministers also agreed that the new state set up by Serbia and Montenegro should not be allowed to occupy Yugoslavia's seats in international bodies.

British officials claimed they had headed off a French attempt to take the peace-making initiative away from the conference chaired by Lord Carrington. 'We are no longer talking about the possibility of ditching Carrington and finding some other horse,' said one Foreign Office source, claiming a victory for Britain over the communique, which supported Lord Carrington warmly.

Although he was unable to offer any new solutions, Douglas Hurd, the Foreign Secretary, said he had seen for himself the severity of the Yugoslav refugee problem during his visit to the Balkans, and had relayed it to his colleagues. The Italian and German ministers said they were concerned at the prospect of a flood of new refugees.

Sickened by television coverage of children awaiting help, Germany yesterday promised to relax rules on accepting refugees and urged its EC allies to do likewise. Chancellor Helmut Kohl called for an urgent 'action of humanity' by EC nations to spread the refugees around.

Yesterday, Croatia said that it was considering sending 3,500 refugees back to Bosnia. The Bosnians had been kept in trains in Croatia after Western countries refused to accept them.

Mr Hurd reiterated that there should be 'no partition of Bosnia (betweeen Serbs and Croats) without regard for the Muslim community there'. In an indication of where the next flashpoint might be, he said the EC was considering sending peace monitors to the Serbian-Hungarian border.

'We cannot impose a peace, whether on Bosnia, or in the other connected crises in Yugoslavia,' he insisted. 'But we cannot allow disappointment to deter us. This is a continuous effort in which we have to persevere.'

Earlier, UN peace-keepers halted the humanitarian airlift to Sarajevo as Muslim, Croatian and Serbian fighters broke the latest ceasefire. Twenty relief flights were cancelled when airport buildings were hit. General Lewis MacKenzie, commander of UN forces in Sarajevo, said: 'It would be irresponsible to ask flights to continue coming in. It is as bad as at any time in the last two weeks.'

The warring sides fought through the truce deadline on Sunday virtually without a pause. The ceasefire should have lasted 14 days and opened a window for peace talks. 'It's unfortunate that the ceasefire seemed to generate more fighting than at other times,' General MacKenzie said. 'It is getting a little tedious trying to calm things down.'

(Photograph omitted)

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