Long and winding road that opens up an isolated enclave

A new link with the once-besieged town of Gorazde is nearly complete
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The Independent Online
Engineers from the Peace Implementation Force in Bosnia are close to completing their work on a track linking Sarajevo with the former Muslim enclave of Gorazde without the need to traverse Serb territory.

But the Bosnian engineers who are also working on the road face acute disappointment, in what has become a highly delicate political issue.

I-For has only committed itself to completing an "access track", but the Bosnian engineers think they are working an an "all-weather, two-lane highway", promised in the Dayton peace agreement.

Although posters trying to get people to vote in the recent elections proclaimed that the boundary line between the Muslim-Croat and Serb entities was a boundary "between forces, not between people", the reality is quite different, and if anything the recent elections have caused that boundary to crystallise. Without a route avoiding Serb territory, Gorazde will remain effectively isolated. However, there is still no agreement on how the promised "highway" is to be paid for and built.

Given the acutely sensitive nature of the task, I-For has felt obliged to build a route, which has proved an immense task, though still well short of what Dayton promised. Two I-For engineers, one French, one Romanian, have died in accidents.

Brigadier John Moore-Bick, the British chief engineer, says the aim of the track is simply to permit access to the route along which the bigger road will eventually run.

Even so, it has proved an immense undertaking, far bigger than route Triangle into central Bosnia, which British engineers turned from a goat track into a fine gravel road over three years from 1992.

The road leaves Sarajevo and winds up Mount Igman. Improvised signs to Gorazde made by the Bosnian government authorities indicate that in their minds this is the final road. At the top of Mount Igman the first stretches of the new, widened and resurfaced track start. The aim is to allow four-wheel drive vehicles to travel at a steady speed - but in practice it has been necessary to build the road and bridges to a standard capable of carrying the construction traffic, including 20-ton trucks.

From Mount Igman, the new track descends past destroyed villages into the narrow corridor of Muslim/Croat Federation territory leading to Gorazde. The track then links up with a narrow tarmac road along a deep ravine. The rock has been blasted away to make passing places every 200 to 300 metres.

After Delias, another ruined hamlet, Bosnian engineers are at work, still apparently under the impression that this is the final road. The US government has provided $2.25m (pounds 1.5m) to fund this part of the road.

The last section of the new road runs from Jabuka to Ustikolina, where German engineers are at work.

At Donje Bratinje, 15 kilometres before Gorazde, they have had to rebuild bridges destroyed by Nato bombing in last summer's air attacks.

In all, the engineers have now built 250 culverts - to channel mountain streams across the track and avoid washing it away - 15 bridges and shifted 105,000 tons of rock and gravel.

"It was only meant to be a track", said Brigadier Moore-Bick. "But until something else is decided upon it looks very much like the road. This at least is what the Bosnians believe they are building".

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