Big referendum turn-out in Sarajevo: Bosnian Serb voters likely to reject Vance-Owen peace plan

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The Independent Online
SARAJEVO - Thousands of people this weekend braved sniper fire in Serbian-held neighbourhoods of Sarajevo to vote in a referendum on the Vance-Owen peace plan to decide if they want to live in an independent Serbian state in Bosnia, writes Robert Block.

Officials at two of the three polling stations in the Grbavica neighbourhood in south-west Sarajevo said that by noon yesterday, 90 per cent of local voters had cast their ballots. They immediately produced neat lists with more than 3,000 names to dispel any doubts about the veracity of their claims.

The referendum was in many ways an exercise in improvisation. Polling places were opening and closing depending on fighting. It was particularly difficult in Gbravica and the neighbouring district of Vraca where an estimated 45,000 people live, mainly Serbs but also some Muslims and Croats.

It was impossible to go by lists of voters because of the sniper fire. People voted and took cover at the closest stations. 'When the referendum closes we will check our lists to make sure nobody voted twice,' said an organiser at Grbavica city hall.

Soldiers were coming in steady numbers to vote. Not all of them were Serbs. One officer, Darko, said he was a Croat who had 70 men under his command. At another polling station in the neighbourhood post office several blocks away, just up the street from a tank parked in a garage, a woman was casting her ballot.

'See, this woman is a Muslim,' said the polling official, Nenad Marijanovic. The woman smiled. 'This is a real citizen's referendum,' said Mr Marijanovic.