Nations rush to aid Sarajevans

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GENEVA (Reuter) - United Nations aid officials said yesterday they had been inundated with offers of places abroad to treat sick and wounded Sarajevans following the high-profile weekend evacuation of 39 people in 'Operation Irma'.

Sylvana Foa, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva, said that their most complete list of offers was:

Italy boosted an original pledge to take 100 patients to 454, an offer large enough on its own to clear Bosnian government lists of those needing to be flown out.

Finland has offered 100 beds.

Poland has offered 40.

Canada and Jordan have offered 20 each.

France and Ireland have offered 10 each.

The United States has asked how many people the UNHCR would like it to evacuate and care for.

Switzerland and The Netherlands both offered an initial five places, but say they have room for more.

Turkey, Denmark and Australia have made open offers to take in the wounded, without setting a figure.

Norway has offered 'planes and places'.

Britain, which evacuated 21 people at the weekend, has said it is ready to take more when asked.

The Czech Republic has inquired about taking patients.

Saudi Arabia has offered to put up money for evacuations.

Sweden evacuated 18 people along with Britain's 21 in 'Operation Irma', named after the five-year-old girl whose well-publicised plight shamed governments into action last week.

The UNHCR said just 183 patients had been evacuated in the whole 16 months of war before then.

Ms Foa said thousands of offers from individuals and private clinics were also pouring in, which the International Office for Migration (IOM), an inter-governmental agency, would follow up due to lack of staff at the UNHCR. The IOM will also help to speed up evacuations to countries with difficult immigration formalities, Ms Foa said.

She said the UNHCR specially welcomed sorely-needed offers from specialist treatment centres, such as an open offer from the International Cranial-Facial Institute in Dallas, Texas.

Kuwait has also said it will provide transport and treatment for an unspecified number of wounded Bosnians, but its offer has not yet reached the UNHCR's headquarters.