THE voluntary return of boat people to Vietnam appeared to be on track again yesterday after United Nations officials apologised to Hanoi for a bureaucratic blunder that curtailed last week's repatriation flights. Hanoi last week blocked the return of 233 boat people because they had not been interviewed in Hong Kong by Vietnamese officials, a move it regarded as a serious breach of protocol by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This week's flights were shelved in talks between the head of the Interior Ministry's Immigration Department, Dang Ngoc Anh, and UNHCR Hong Kong chief, Jahanshah Assadi. But yesterday, Hanoi ended the stalemate when it agreed another 491 boat people would be cleared for entry. Carlos Zaccagnini, acting Vietnam representative for the UNHCR, said he was aiming for the 491 to be returned by the end of next week at the latest. 'It is a very encouraging development and we are hopeful that we are now back to business,' said Mr Zaccagnini, who refused to elaborate on negotiations. However, sources said Hanoi's gesture followed repeated apologies from the UNHCR for the mistake which saw just 45 boat people returned. It is understood Vietnam also did not want to withdraw a screening team from Hong Kong in June, as new simplified procedures agreed under the Comprehensive Plan of Action effectively left it without a job. Despite the issue being unresolved, the UNHCR hopes it will not be a problem. 'Now we can get back moving and face the real issue of the Washington situation,' one British official said in Hanoi. 'This is the real threat to both the UNHCR's voluntary programme and the possibility of a new wave of migrants leaving Vietnam in boats.' Britain has failed to stall a congressional bill which allows for up to 20,000 boat people to be settled in the US, despite having been determined economic migrants and not refugees.