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Sunday, August 2, 1998 Published at 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK

World: Europe

UN aid to Kosovo refugees

Unloading much-needed relief supplies at a village near Malisevo

Correspondent Jeremy Cooke sees aid arrive: "not much, but it is a start"
The United Nations has made its first aid delivery to ethnic Albanian refugees in Kosovo.

A spokesman said a relief convoy with enough food to last 1,000 people a week has reached the central town of Malisevo, from where thousands fled a Serbian offensive to take refuge in the surrounding hills and woods.

The relief convoy was allowed to pass through Serbian checkpoints without hindrance.

UNHCR spokeswoman Maki Shinohara says thousands need help
UN aid workers said they found thousands of Albanian civilians with children and some newborn infants sheltering on slopes above Malisevo, which was abandoned by the rebels last Tuesday.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) said the refugees were in urgent need of help.

[ image: Many children and babies are among the refugees]
Many children and babies are among the refugees
"The village of Crnovrana above Malisevo, where we delivered, is simply filled with people with many more visible further up the hills, living rough," said Eduardo Arboleda at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in Kosovo.

The refugees told aid workers they wanted to return home, but were too terrified to do so.

Tens of thousands more refugees are thought to be in the area, but UN officials said security concerns were hampering efforts to reach them.

[ image: Hundreds of villages have been shelled]
Hundreds of villages have been shelled
More than 100,000 civilians from Kosovo are reported to be on the run following a week-long Serbian offensive against separatist ethnic Albanians.

On Friday, the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, assured the United States envoy, Christopher Hill, that he wanted the refugees to be able to return to their homes.

A European Union delegation, which met Mr Milosevic on Thursday accused Serbia of using excessive force, and said parts of Kosovo had become a wasteland.

Correspondents say entire villages and towns have been abandoned.

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