Bosnia: Mayor rules out 'Berlin Wall' for Sarajevo: Hopes grow for rebuilding of Bosnian capital

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The Independent Online
THE MAYOR of Sarajevo said yesterday that his people would never accept the partition of their city, no matter how humiliating their condition after 17 months under Serbian siege.

Muhamed Kresevljakovic welcomed an agreement reached in Geneva on Monday to turn Sarajevo into an 'open city' with a UN-appointed governor entrusted with supreme authority for a limited period.

'However you interpret this agreement, it will be impossible to build a sort of new Berlin Wall through the middle of the city. So it is a good agreement,' he said in an interview. 'Sarajevo is like a single organism. It has to be united. You cannot take out little bits and put them on their own. No matter how degraded people become, in their souls they cannot accept the division of the city.'

The Geneva agreement envisages Sarajevo as a city of nine districts, linking Muslim-dominated sectors with the Serb-held areas of Ilidza, Trnovo and Hadzici. There would be free movement for people through and out of the city, and civilian police rather than armed militias would maintain law and order. The UN governor would preside over the city's central administration, but at district level municipal officials would be selected according to a principle of ethnic parity.

The mayor said the agreement suggested that Serbian forces encircling Sarajevo had dropped their demand to partition the city along the Miljacka River, which runs through the centre. 'I was worried that their demands would prolong the negotiations indefinitely, but they have obviously toned down these demands. Serbs who live in the city have the same idea as Muslims and Croats, no matter what their political views, and that is to live in an undivided city. Assuming this agreement leads to peace, it will allow Sarajevo to be rebuilt.'

Sarajevo's daily newspaper, Oslobodjenje, also welcomed the agreement, saying it had buried 'the fascistic idea of erecting new Berlin Walls and dividing streets by ethnic lines'.

However, the mayor, a 54-year-old former historian who specialised in the period of Ottoman rule over Bosnia, warned that Sarajevo would face grave danger if the Geneva agreement collapsed.

'We can expect this winter to be twice as bad as last winter. We can expect many more people to die, especially children and the elderly. We can expect much greater destruction of the city. Urgent preparations are needed for winter. We must have normal electricity and water supplies. We need much larger supplies of food, so that we have reserves. In the past we usually had two full warehouses of food. Now we have none.'

Bosnian government officials said Sarajevo needed 1,175,000kg of food a week to survive, but that in recent weeks only 62 per cent of that amount was getting through.

The Serbian siege is partly responsible, but a more important factor is the Muslim-Croat fighting in central and southern Bosnia, which has disrupted aid deliveries.

The mayor said the morale of Sarajevo's people had fallen sharply this year. 'It's been a long siege, a year- and-a-half. It's been said that this is one large concentration camp, and that's true. All the most basic, minimal needs that a city should have are not here. People are hungry. There is no one in the city who hasn't lost weight, 5kg or more. The kind of food we're getting isn't of the right quality. Most people have lost hope that the blockade will end.'

He said the battles between Muslim-led government forces and the Bosnian-Croat army, the HVO, formerly allied to the government, had further depressed people's spirits. 'We feel that we might get through Ilidza (a Serb-held suburb in western Sarajevo) but then we would have to face the Croats. So actually there is another circle to this blockade. The fact that the Geneva negotiations have destroyed and killed the common life that we had in Bosnia-Herzegovina has contributed to the mood of disillusion among the people of Sarajevo.'

He said Sarajevo was being denied electricity not only because of the Serbian blockade, but because Muslim- Croat fighting around Konjic in central Bosnia had destroyed supply lines. 'The Serbs in Ilidza and the Croats in Kiseljak steal electricity that should go to Sarajevo.'

But the mayor expressed hope that relations between the three nationalities would return to normal. 'I think Sarajevo is the place where the idea of a common life will be regenerated, and then it will spread out from here,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

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