New help offered to Sarajevo wounded

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The Independent Online
HELP was offered to Bosnian war victims by an increasing number of countries yesterday as plans were finalised to evacuate 41 of the most seriously injured to Britain, Sweden and Ireland. Officials in France, Norway, Italy, Poland, and the Netherlands all said they had hospital beds available.

The French government, which has flown out 88 injured Bosnian children, contacted the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to offer more help. Representatives said French policy, however, was to concentrate on improving medical facilities in the war zone.

Norway said it was willing to offer places for sick and wounded children without specifying a number. Polish officials indicated that more than 30 hospital beds were available for children, while the Dutch government said it would accept five victims immediately and more if required.

A State Department official said he was unaware of any US involvement in plans to evacuate victims from Bosnia, but added: 'The United States has taken well over 100 people out of Bosnia-Herzegovina under a variety of programmes in the past, so it is not as if we haven't been doing anything.'

The offers of help followed the publicity generated by the plight of Irma Hazimuratovic, 5, who is desperately ill in a London hospital after being flown out of Sarajevo this week. 'A number of hospitals have called to offer free operations and recovery,' said Nicola Marinosci, the head of medical services for the Italian Red Cross. Italy provided help last month to eight wounded children from Sarajevo but Mr Marinosci said that more hospitals had come forward this week.

The airlift to Britain, Sweden and Ireland is expected to take place over the weekend. Saudi Arabia has donated pounds 100,000 to the cost of the airlift.

Tony Redmond, leader of the British civilian medical team responsible for moving the wounded to Britain, visited Bosnia last year and has experience of medical emergencies and evacuation exercises in Armenia and Iran. 'We have been asked to respond and we are very pleased to do this. We have very little information about any injuries. We will liaise with authorities over there and respond to what is required,' he said.

The patients going to Ireland are to be treated at St Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital in Dublin. Michael Conroy, its manager, said: 'We will treat the patients - that is what we are here for - and we will worry about the money later on, if we have to worry about it.'