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Breaking the mould in the Balkans

WHILE Lord Owen has been striding his high-profile way around the warring regions of former Yugoslavia, another member of the erstwhile Gang of Four, Baroness (Shirley) Williams, has been busy behind the scenes trying to influence the debate on the future of Bosnia and help alleviate the suffering.

Lady Williams, professor of elective politics at Harvard University, returned to London this month from a tour of Sarajevo and Croatia. Along with Lynn Martin, former Secretary of Labor in the Bush administration, she investigated the plight of displaced women and children and gained a firsthand impression of the political realities.

She is not impressed by the latest Allied plan to establish 'safe havens' for the Bosnian Muslims. While convinced of the need to bolster the United Nations forces, she said yesterday that it is not enough for the US just to offer to defend the lives of UN troops patrolling the zones. The lives of trapped Muslims also need to be protected.

The UN mandate, she says, needs to be strengthened to enable the troops to retaliate when civilians are threatened; Tuzla military airport must be reopened to enable food supplies to get through; and if civilians are attacked air strikes should be authorised against surrounding artillery positions.

In Sarajevo Lady Williams discovered an acute shortage of artifical limbs. Horrified by the number of people on the streets who have lost an arm or leg, she is now arranging, through the Red Cross, for made-to- measure limbs to be sent to the city.

She also found that children studying in cellars are desperately short of books in English. With the help of the British Council, she is trying to arrange an appeal for books to be flown to Sarejevo. As one former deputy minister of education in Bosnia told her: 'Our children's minds must be kept alive somehow.'

LAST week's visit by Tim Eggar, the minister for energy, to Kuwait was given lavish coverage in the Kuwait Times. Unfortunate, though, that the minister was referred to throughout as Tim Eager.

Red hot buses WE HAVE discovered a design fault in London Transport's pounds 10m programme to refurbish 500 of its 650- strong fleet of Routemaster buses.

LT has changed the way in which buses are heated, and many conductors now have no way of switching the heating off while the vehicle is in motion. In unrefurbished buses there is a handle that conductors can use to adjust the heating. In the modernised ones the stopcock is under the bonnet.

The temperature can be changed only when a bus ends its tour of duty, mostly in the depot. Unexpected hot or cold spells will result in passengers being too hot or too cold. Only the other day a colleague travelling from Fulham to Piccadilly was parboiled on a No 14.

An LT spokesman told us yesterday that the very, very latest refurbished models are being fitted with a switch in the driver's cab. Those travelling on switchless models, he suggests, should stand near the door if they feel too hot. If they are too cold, they should close the windows.

IN HIS account of five and a half years in an Iranian jail, Death Plus Ten Years, Roger Cooper notes that one of the books his brother Paul gave him to while away the time was Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Garbage garb AND NOW, from the Whitby Gazette: 'A voluntary litter picker could soon be at work in Fylingdales parish. An offer by Miss Taymar Jones, of Sunnyside Farm, to collect litter outside village limits in the area near her home was warmly received by members of the parish council, who agreed to spend pounds 9.50 on a 'litterpicker' for Miss Jones and - for road safety reasons - a light-coloured tabard.' A what? A medieval peasant's overcoat, of course.

ARE THOSE disaffected Anglicans seeking the moral certainties of Roman Catholicism barking up the wrong ecclesiastical tree? Certainty of any kind seems to be missing if the following, from an editorial in the Universe, the Catholic weekly, is anything to go by: 'Clarification is needed if there are circumstances when a condom is not a condom.'


25 May 735 Cuthbert describes in a letter the death of the Venerable Bede at Jarrow: 'His breathing became laboured and his feet began to swell. Despite this he continued cheerfully to teach and dictate all day, saying from time to time 'Learn quickly. I do not know how long I can continue, for my Lord may call me in a short while.' At Nones he said to me, 'I have a few articles of value in my casket, such as pepper, linen and incense. Run quickly and fetch the priests, so that I may distribute them.' In great distress I did as he bid me. When they arrived, he spoke to each in turn, requesting them to offer Masses and prayers for him. He then said, 'Now raise my head in your hands, for it would give me great joy to face the holy place where I used to pray, so that I may call on my Father.' And thus on the floor of his cell, he chanted 'Glory be to the Father' to its ending, and breathed his last.'