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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK

World: Europe

Kosovo aid train gets through

During the crisis, the railways were used to expel Kosovo Albanians

A British train carrying 8,000 tonnes of aid has arrived in Kosovo after being delayed by the Macedonian authorities.

Kosovo: Special Report
The so-called Train for Life was near the end of its 4,500km (2,800 mile) journey, but was stopped by the Macedonian authorities in Skopje, 80km (50 miles) from its destination.

The charity organisers said the local authorities in Macedonia had demanded $8,000 before allowing the train to leave for Kosovo.

The BBC's Jon Leyne reports: "The British train has already made a record-breaking journey"
The demand was dropped after talks with commanders from the Nato-led peacekeepers in Kosovo and the train is expected to arrive in Pristina later on Monday.

The train had been due to finish its journey on Saturday but has been hit by several delays long the way. On Friday, it suffered an eight-hour interruption at the border between Bulgaria and Greece because a local driver could not be found.

One of the organisers said the 15 British staff had received death threats from Serbs working for the Macedonian railways. He said they were running out of supplies and were exhausted by the ordeal.

Delaying tactics

The train is loaded with clothes, food, construction equipment, medicine and artificial limbs.

[ image: Rebuilding Kosovo: Urgent action needed before winter sets in]
Rebuilding Kosovo: Urgent action needed before winter sets in
A BBC correspondent in Pristina, Jon Leyne, says the delays suffered by the Train for Life are familiar to aid workers trying to bring supplies to Kosovo.

Aid workers are often forced to expend much of their energy trying to get goods across the border.

The aid is needed to repair thousands of homes destroyed during the Kosovo crisis into some sort of shape before the bitter Balkan winter.

But the biggest part of the donation could be the train itself, which will be drafted into service to help revive Kosovo's shattered railway system.

The scheme was organised by a former British Rail worker, Neil Howard, who was appalled at the sight of Kosovo refugees being forced on to trains at gunpoint during the conflict.

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