'Phoney peace' in Sarajevo as sniper fire ends

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The Independent Online
SNIPER rifles were silent across Sarajevo yesterday, as an anti-sniping agreement came into force across the city. For the UN, it was another step on the road to normality; for many Sarajevans, it was another document papering over the reality gap. 'This is not peace,' came the constant refrain yesterday, 'and the agreement will not last. They never do.'

The streets are full of people strolling, the cafes full of friends chatting; those who can afford a drink nurse their expensive espressos, the rest lounge about, thirsty. It feels to many like a phoney peace. 'This is still a concentration camp. We can't live like this for 50 years,' said Anja Tomic, a doctor. 'I don't want to spend the rest of my life satisfied because I have something to eat.'

In a shell-damaged gallery, Maja Andric attends the opening of a photo exhibition - images of war - she helped to organise. 'All the time I am aware this peace is just an illusion, that we actually have war here,' she said. She hopes for an end to the arms embargo on the Bosnian government, even if it means the withdrawal of the UN forces who have fed and - to some extent - protected her compatriots. 'People will go hungry, but when (the UN) leaves, we will have no illusions any more.'

Dr Tomic is more ambivalent. She longs for the war to end, but is sceptical that it is possible without 'more killing, more blood'. She acknowledges the UN's role, but said: 'After two and a half years, it seems that they were just helping to prolong our agony.'

There are signs of hope. Azra Alagic, 15, has returned after two years as a refugee abroad. 'This is my town,' she said. 'I must live here, it is the best.' Her father, Alija, a jeweller who sits in his tiny shop killing time, is thrilled to have his wife and daughter home, but gloomy about the future. 'I don't believe in the peace process,' he said. 'If they gave us weapons it would be different.'

Azra and her mother joined Mr Alagic and his two sons, one of whom was wounded on the front line, because they sensed an end to the war. But, Mr Alagic said, 'the Serbs still shoot at the city and kill people'. He too hopes for a lifting of the arms embargo, and his friend, Fehim Hasanbegovic, concurred: 'Without force they will never agree to anything.' Azra, now on her summer holidays, is blithe about the dangers of life here. 'I don't think about getting shot - nobody thinks about that any more,' she said. 'I don't want war, but I think it will start again. Only this time, I will stay.'

It is a sentiment shared by Mirsada Runda, who owns a smart boutique where passers-by come to finger the black silk underwear - at 200 Marks ( pounds 83) a set - they can only dream of buying. Her shop, she jokes, is like a museum: 'People come in and look around - I let them touch everything and it makes them feel a bit better.' Blonde and elegant, she makes an effort to look good. 'Instead of picking up a gun, I put on my make-up - that's how I fight.'