The top United Nations refugee official yesterday appealed to all governments to keep their borders open to a mounting tide of homeless people fleeing fighting in the former Yugoslavia.

High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata said at a one-day UN conference on the crisis: "In line with their responsibilities toward asylum seekers, all states within or outside the region should provide temporary protection to persons fleeing former Yugoslavia."

A senior medical officer for the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO), Sir Donald Acheson, warned delegates there was "real risk of catastrophe" this winter unless the nearly 2 million homeless had suitable shelter.

The conference was convened against a background of bickering among West European countries over the refugees, with Germany complaining that others especially Britain and France were not taking a fare share of the flow.

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