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Morillon escorts Muslims to safety

GENERAL Philippe Morillon escorted 684 people, including 100 wounded women and children, in a convoy out of Srebrenica yesterday as he continued his courageous personal effort to save the besieged town.

The French general, a towering hero to Bosnia's Muslims, led 18 truckloads of injured people from Srebrenica to Tuzla, where the convoy reached safety last night. Captain Dirk Van Den Broek, with the convoy of injured, said: 'This morning when the transportation of the sick from the hospital to the trucks began, everybody started clawing at the trucks and everybody wanted to come along. We could not say no to families which would have been separated. We are here with 684.'

General Morillon, the commander of UN forces in Bosnia, won praise from most of the world for his courageous feat in leading an aid convoy into Srebrenica on Friday. The town has been under siege for a year and has received no supplies by road since December. Back in the town yesterday, the general said: 'I will leave the region only when I am sure that the population is no longer in danger.'

However, UN relief workers said that Srebrenica's needs were much greater than the 80 or 90 tonnes of aid that the general was able to bring into the town on Friday. 'The world must be told that parachute drops of food and medical evacuations of a few people cannot solve the problem of watching a city starve to death,' said Sir Donald Acheson, the World Health Organisation's special representative in what was Yugoslavia. He estimated that about 30 people a day were dying from malnutrition and disease.

As some UN officials warned that Srebrenica was close to capitulating to a relentless Serbian offensive, the US Air Force early yesterday carried out its largest air drop of food and medicines over the town and surrounding villages. Nine planes parachuted more than 70 tonnes of supplies into the area, where at least 60,000 people are encircled by Serbian artillery and troops.

Western countries on the UN Security Council hope to pass a motion tomorrow permitting the use of force to prevent military flights in Bosnia. The motion is directed against the Serbs, although the West acknowledges Croats and Muslims have also violated the ban on flights, which the council imposed last October.

The Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, said if the Security Council adopted more sanctions against Serbs, he might withdraw from peace talks in New York.

King Hussein has awarded Jordan's highest military medal to General Morillon in recognition of his bravery, the official news agency Petra said yesterday. In a telegram to the French President, Francois Mitterrand, King Hussein asked him to present General Morillon with the Kawkab (Star) medal. 'It is in recognition of the principled and courageous stand General Morillon took, which showed that aggression should not last, and also showed the world the plight of the Bosnians through Srebrenica,' King Hussein told Mr Mitterrand.

Morillon profile, page 23