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Norway To Help Kosovo Refugees

April 6, 1999

OSLO, Norway (AP) _ Exhausted Kosovo Albanian refugees began arriving Tuesday in an airlift that has Norway scrambling to find space for the 6,000 people it has promised to shelter.

The first 91 refugees landed before dawn, trudging off a chartered airliner with a few meager possession or small children clutched in their arms.

``We are so happy to be here. You Norwegians are wonderful to us,″ 27-year-old Burhan, who refused to give his last name, was quoted as telling the news agency NTB.

Another 100 are expected to arrive during the night in a humanitarian rescue that is moving so fast authorities are not sure where to put all the people, or even what legal status they will have in Norway.

The Norwegian People’s Aid group, which is handling the arrivals, expects about 100 new refugees a day. Norway plans to fly in emergency supplies and then fly out refugees on the same aircraft.

Norway has 2,000 spots open at its refugee centers. But Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said the country of 4.4 million will find the room, even if it means asking Norwegians to open their homes to the refugees.

The first refugee families were taken from Oslo’s Gardermoen airport by bus to a refugee center for food, sleep and registration. They were exhausted but healthy.

``Our family is safe. Our children are safe. That is the most important,″ said refugee Agim Musliu. ``Who knows what is the future? I wish to go back now, but it’s not up to us.″

Sweden announced Tuesday it would accept up to 5,000 Kosovo refugees, but gave no timetable. Denmark is expected to take another 1,500-2,000 people, but no decision has been made.

The refugees’ suffering has touched a chord and aid agencies say they are having trouble coping with all the offers.

In central Norway, a farmer offered to lend refugees land and a house. In Norway’s Arctic, Sami reindeer herders offered to shelter at least 40 refugees at their local college in the small town of Karasjok.

``We have seen the television pictures from Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia. The suffering is gruesome. Here we have to think with our hearts,″ said Karasjok Mayor Kjell Saether.

The right-wing Party of Progress, however, wanted to build refugee centers near Kosovo, rather than spending money to bring the refugees to Norway. Party leader Carl Hagen also questioned whether the refugees would ever leave.

But Burhan, the refugee, said that wasn’t in his plans.

``The future for me and mine, obviously, is to go back to Kosovo,″ he said.

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