U.N. convoy with food, medicines enter Mostar



MEDJUGORJE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP)—U.N. trucks piled high with food and medicine entered embattled Mostar Wednesday, negotiating past enraged Croat women who sat in the road singing hymns to keep the aid from reaching Muslims.

‘‘They are feeding the Muslims, who are then killing us,’‘ sobbed Anica Golamac, 59, one of the protesters. They demanded that the trucks be searched to see if they were smuggling weapons to the Muslims.

The convoy took hours to negotiate the 12 miles from Medjugorje, where it had been delayed for days by Croat intransigence. Relief officials say that thousands of Muslims are near starvation in the besieged city.

Alemka Lisinski, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in the Croatian capital of Zagreb, said the U.N. trucks entered the Croat-held western section of Mostar near nightfall.

She said 175 tons in basic drugs, powdered milk, baby food and other food was to cross into the eastern sector, where 55,000 Muslims have been trapped for more than two months.

Another 80 to 90 tons was to go to the Croat-controlled west bank of the Neretva River, she said. There was no word on when the trucks might unload.

Overnight, meanwhile, the U.S. Air Force made its first airdrop of food and medical supplies into Mostar, expanding its six-month program to drop supplies into Bosnia.

Sarajevo, the beleaguered Bosnian capital, was quiet on Wednesday.

But Bosnian government forces attacked French U.N. peacekeepers patrolling strategic Mount Igman overlooking Sarajevo, wounding the French company’s commander, U.N. spokeswoman Shannon Boyd in Zagreb said in a statement.

The French soldiers causing an undetermined number of casualties, and then forced the government troops to withdraw. The Bosnian commander later said the attack was made in error, Boyd’s statement said without elaboration.

Once allies, Croats and Muslims have fought bitterly in recent weeks for Mostar, in southwestern Bosnia, and across central Bosnia. They and Bosnia’s Serbs are engaged in a vicious land grab before a peace settlement is reached to divide Bosnia into three ethnic states.

Croats have been trying to drive Muslims out of Mostar, which they want as the capital of their lands in Bosnia.

As part of efforts to get the convoy into Mostar, U.N. officials forged a cease-fire in the city, which they said was holding Wednesday. U.N. military observers entered the town at dawn to monitor it, officials said.

However, while the United Nations said the truce was meant to be permanent, Croat military commanders said it was only valid Wednesday for the convoy’s entry.

Bosnian Croat women vowing not to let the convoy pass stopped it first on the outskirts of Medjugorje and again in the village of Citluk, about four miles away.

‘‘You are helping (Muslim) murderers and Mostar is Croatian,’‘ yelled the crowd in Medjugorje.

The refugees dispersed and the convoy proceeded, only to be stopped by hundreds of others in Citluk. There, Bosnian Croat officials met in a local school with three protest representatives and Jerrie Hulme of the UNHCR.

After the meeting, Mate Granic, the foreign minister of Croatia, which has backed Bosnian Croats during the war, told the crowd that ‘‘Croatia and Bosnian Croats fully support the freedom of the convoy.’‘

But the crowd yelled: ‘‘It mustn’t pass through: we will not allow it.’‘

The crowd eventually dispersed. Lisinski, the UNHCR spokeswoman, was unable to give further details.

It was unclear whether the protests were spontaneous or staged by Bosnian Croat authorities. But Bosnian Croat authorities have repeatedly blocked aid convoys to Sarajevo and central Bosnia. They had not allowed aid to the Muslims in Mostar since June 15.

The U.S. Air Force dropped 25 tons of food into Mostar overnight. But British Broadcasting Corp. radio reported that many Muslims didn’t know the food was coming because they had no batteries for their radios.

It said the ration packets were scooped up by people who were outside to escape stifling basements they had been holed up in during a day of heavy shelling.

Petty Officer Kelly Williamson, a spokesman for the U.S. operation, said in Germany that it was likely the airdrops to Mostar would continue because the United Nations has listed the city as a priority for aid.

In Sarajevo, Lt. Col. Patricia Purves, a U.N. spokeswoman, termed the airdrop ‘‘a great success,’‘ and said packets were scattered over a wide area.

But she added, the airdrops were too haphazard to answer the city’s needs. ‘‘We need a road convoy in,’‘ she said.

Also Wednesday, 10 seriously injured victims of the war arrived in Dublin, Ireland, for treatment. They are the latest beneficiaries of an international drive to evacuate severely wounded people from Sarajevo.