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Britain, Sweden Head To Italy To Prepare For Evacuations With AM-Yugoslavia, and

August 12, 1993

Britain, Sweden Head To Italy To Prepare For Evacuations With AM-Yugoslavia, and US-Yugoslavia,Bjt

LONDON (AP) _ British and Swedish medical teams flew to Italy on Thursday to prepare to evacuate 41 war victims from Bosnia in a mission inspired by the suffering of a 5-year-old Bosnian girl.

The girl, Irma Hadzimuratovic, underwent more surgery on shrapnel wounds in her abdomen and clung to life in a London hospital.

Dr. Kathy Wilkinson said Irma was in ″critical but stable″ condition after the 3 1/2 -hour operation at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.

Irma suffered spinal, abdominal and head wounds in a Serb mortar attack July 30 that killed her mother. She later became ill with meningitis, a swelling of membranes around the spinal cord and brain.

Doctors said that Irma’s meningitis is responding slowly to antibiotics, but she remained unconscious on a ventilator was receiving drugs to help her weakened heart function.

Irma came to London on Monday for medical treatment after U.N. red tape kept her trapped in Sarajevo for a week. After her doctor publicized her case and tearful Britons phoned Prime Minister John Major, Britain intervened.

Sympathizers around the world have flooded the hospital with toys, clothes, cards and cash. Since her arrival, the hospital’s switchboard has logged 11,000 calls from well-wishers.

Under public pressure, Britain, Sweden and Ireland announced plans Wednesday to evacuate 41 other seriously wounded Bosnian civilians. France has said it was willing to take another 10 cases, and Canada has offered to take 20 others.

Twelve Royal Air Force casualty evacuation experts left for Italy Thursday to prepare to head to Bosnia to pick up patients. From Stockholm, a medical team also left for Ancona, Italy to wait for clearance into Bosnia.

Britain will take 20 patients, Sweden 16 and Ireland five. About half are children.

In Sarajevo, U.N. officials contacted 41 patients on the U.N. list of emergency cases to make sure their traveling papers were in order, said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Peter Kessler.

Some were wounded in fighting, while others are to be treated for cancer and other illnesses. Not all have been staying in hospitals, and some were difficult to locate because they didn’t own a phone, U.N. officials said.

Permission for travel is still needed from the Bosnian Defense Ministry, who must clear adults who are technically eligible for military service, and from Bosnian Serbs, who control a checkpoint leading to Sarajevo’s airport.

But Kessler said he did not expect any problems because the operation has gotten so much publicity, and neither side wants to hamper it.

If all goes well, the UNHCR hopes to fly out the 41 on Sunday.

Tony Land, head of the UNHCR office in Sarajevo, said a four-doctor medical team is evaluating about 400 other cases to see if they meet criteria for evacuation. Patients must be stable enough to travel, and have offers of care from a country and a hospital, and offers of payment.

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