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Bosnia and Herzegovina reopens for business

A country still associated in many minds with a savage war is determined to put the past behind it, attract foreign investment and join the EU. It needs to move soon or it will be left behind by the rest of Europe. Julian Evans reports.

After 10 years, the Mostar bridge
is to reopen, linking the city's
Christian Croatian and Muslim
Bosnian populations once more.

LATER THIS YEAR the Mostar bridge in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH) will be reopened. The 16th-century bridge, the link between the Christian Croatian and Muslim Bosnian populations of Mostar, was destroyed in 1993 by a Croatian tank shell, after the two sides of the town had fallen into bitter fighting. It became a symbol to the world of the brutality and divisiveness of the Bosnian war. But, with financial support provided by a $15 million World Bank loan, the crossing has been rebuilt. An official opening ceremony will take place on July 24, which the BH government hopes will attract the attention of tourists and foreign investors. As Ian Cliff, British ambassador to BH, says: "The ultimate symbol of despair in the war was the destruction of the bridge, so the reconstruction of it is a very important symbol that BH is back in business."

Lagging behind the region BH is clearly at a watershed, a change from one era to another marked by the death at the end of last year of Alija Izetbegovic, the war-time president of Bosnia; the continuing trial of Slobodan Milosevic; and the sentencing in December of Dragan Obrenovic, the Serbian commander responsible for the Srebrenica massacre.

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