Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Britain Cuts Red Tape to Aid Bosnia Victims OPERATION IRMA

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Britain Cuts Red Tape to Aid Bosnia Victims OPERATION IRMA

Article excerpt

AN international operation to evacuate seriously wounded adults and children from Sarajevo has swung into action amid mounting public pressure on governments to broaden the scope of humanitarian relief in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The initial phase of the operation, described by Britain's main refugee organization as an important policy breakthrough, was expected to bring 41 war victims and their families to Britain, Sweden, and the Irish Republic for urgent treatment this weekend.

British Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley, who is helping to coordinate the humanitarian effort, appeared to leave the door open for more Bosnian war victims to come to London: "This represents a new phase in our already determined attempts to ease the suffering of these unfortunate people."

The initiative to accelerate the evacuation of wounded from the former Yugoslavia was triggered by the plight of Irma Hadzimuratovic, a five-year-old child gravely wounded in Sarajevo by shrapnel that also killed her mother. Hospitals in Sarajevo lacked the facilities to treat Irma.

When television pictures of the child on a crude life-support system were shown in Britain, Prime Minister John Major ordered her immediate removal to London where she became a patient in a leading children's hospital.

While Irma's treatment began, Downing Street officials reported that the switchboard at the prime minister's London residence was "inundated" with phone calls urging the government to accept more wounded children from Bosnia. On the first day of Irma's treatment, the hospital received 25 mail sacks of get well cards, toys, and other gifts.

Mr. Major then began consultations with Carl Bildt, the Swedish prime minister, and Albert Reynolds, his Irish counterpart. On Aug. 11, during Major's visit to Stockholm, he and Mr. Bildt announced that Britain would take 20 wounded, Sweden 16, and Ireland five.

Saudi Arabia has pledged to pay for air ambulances to help transport them, and France has reiterated its offer to take some of the wounded.

Hopes that the 41 being evacuated from Sarajevo would be the first of many were raised by the two leaders' joint statement. …

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