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Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK

World: Middle East

Gulf Arabs aid Kosovo refugees

UAE servicemen are helping with the humanitarian airlift in Albania

By Frank Gardner in Dubai

Listen to Frank Gardner's report
In the latest tragedy to beset the Balkans, there is little doubt where the sympathies of the Gulf Arab states lie. Watching the sufferings of their fellow Muslim Kosovars on television, Gulf Arabs have rushed to send donations through local Islamic charities.

In Saudi Arabia, a country still in the grips of an economic downturn, citizens have donated more than $20m in cash as well as food and medical supplies.

Kosovo: Special Report
Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have all sent plane loads of aid while the Saudi Red Crescent Organisation has appealed to hospitals for medical volunteers.

The UAE has also sent a mobile medical team to the region to treat exhausted Kosovo refugees, using mobile clinics equipped with X-rays.

The head of the UAE's mission in Albania said that work was beginning on renovating a disused Albanian airport so it could take planes carrying up to 15 tons of supplies.

The Saudi-based Organisation of Islamic Conference has been urging its 55 member states to increase their humanitarian support for the refugees.

Anger at Serb attacks

[ image: Refugees queue for aid from Kuwait]
Refugees queue for aid from Kuwait
So far, all the public assistance to Kosovo Albanians in the Gulf has been strictly humanitarian. But many here in the Gulf are dismayed and angered by the continued attacks on Muslim civilians by Serb forces.

When the Nato attacks on Yugoslavia began a month ago, they were roundly praised by some of the local Gulf press.

As the Kosovo refugees continue to suffer, many here would now welcome an intervention on the ground.

But with the US and Britain already seen by some as the aggressors in Iraq, there is also a reluctance to support a unilateral Western action that would lack the backing of the UN.

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