HONG Kong's lifesaving aid to the sick and starving people of Rwanda was held up by red tape at Entebbe airport in Uganda yesterday, despite an appeal to the White House. The more than 50 tonnes of urgently needed drugs and equipment to purify drinking water for the refugees arrived early yesterday morning after a 14-hour flight from Hong Kong, but aid workers found they could not proceed further. Aid officials and US Air Force staff are being bogged down by logistical problems in war-torn Rwanda and are unable to move the supplies in time to save lives. Lieutenant-General Daniel Schroeder, the commanding officer in charge of the joint taskforce bringing aid to the Rwandan refugees, called an emergency summit with aid workers yesterday. He asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to give priority to aid needs in Goma, Zaire, so the most essential equipment could be moved in first. ''The most important thing we want to do is save lives. We need to know what we should move first,'' he told the aid workers at the meeting. He said the air force was using C-130 and C-141 transport planes and heavy-lift helicopters to operate an air bridge from Entebbe to refugee camps in Rwanda and Zaire. Different aid groups are trying to move water purifying equipment, food, blankets, medicine, doctors and other specialist staff into the disaster area. But the backlog of aid arriving means that it could take several days before the supplies can be moved to where they are most needed. Yesterday, the US Vice-President's wife, Tipper Gore, visited the troops in Entebbe with the US forces chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikashzili, as part of a humanitarian mission. Anne Decortis, the head of Hong Kong's office of Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who flew in with aid from the territory, made a personal appeal to Mrs Gore for the essential supplies to be put at the top of the queue. ''The army told me that their rule for moving the aid was on a first-come first-served basis, but I told them I think that rule is not right. The point is our equipment is a priority. From the reports I have heard in the field I understand this is what they want,'' Miss Decortis said. She was then introduced to Mrs Gore and told her of the urgent need in Goma for the supplies sent from Hong Kong. ''She seemed impressed by what we were trying to do but she did not say she would be able to help,'' Miss Decortis said. UNHCR staff have proposed flying five Land Rovers from Hong Kong with trailers capable of carrying almost 700 litres of water directly to Kigali, the Rwandan capital. They then plan to drive them to where they are most needed if a direct flight to the refugee camp on the Zaire border cannot be found. The road trip would take at least six hours compared with a 45-minute flight from Entebbe.