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Associated Press

Bosnians reopen landmark bridge linked to war

MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina — For centuries, Mostar's stone bridge was an icon of ethnic diversity. Then, when shelling destroyed it in 1993, the ancient span came to symbolize the senseless brutality of Bosnia's war.On Friday, when Britain's Prince Charles and other foreign dignitaries gather to reopen the bridge over the Neretva River, many Bosnians hope it also will help reunite the Muslims and Croats in this picturesque southern town.

"This is a bridge which has a soul of its own," Sulejman Kupusovic, in charge of Friday's reopening ceremony, told The Associated Press."Even when it was destroyed and did not exist, it was present among the residents even more than ever," he said. "I am sure that this bridge will do more for the unification of Mostar and Bosnia — more than declarations or politicians together — because it is, simply put, our history."


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Italy On Line


Special service by AGI on behalf of the Italian Prime Minister's office

Rome, July 22 - President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi has sent the following message to the president of Bosnia-Herzegovina to coincide with the inauguration of the restored Old Bridge at Mostar. 

"I was in Mostar in June 2002, when reconstruction works on the Old Bridge began; today, I'm symbolically in Mostar to celebrate the successfulness of this operation". "The destruction of the Mostar bridge in 1993 - he added - was a brutal act, which heralded the horrendous murders that were to follow it. We didn't react promptly and firmly enough to it. The restoration of the bridge is the result of the commitment shown by Bosnia-Herzegovina and the International Community. Italy has been at the forefront of donor countries. The bridge symbolizes tolerance and cultural exchange". President Ciampi then added that the statements made by representatives of orthodox, Muslim, Catholic and Jewish communities in Bosnia Herzegovina must not be forgotten. "In Sarajevo, the Muezzin song is once again ringing alongside the sound of church bells", he said. Several important cultural heritage treasures were destroyed in the Balkan war. But others are under safe surveillance from the Multinational Peacekeeping Force, to which Italian troops contribute significantly. "I had the chance to admire those treasures at the Orthodox monasteries in Pec and Decani, and at the Pec mosque", said the President. He added that "I have always stressed the need for an all-encompassing programme that restores and enhances the value of cultural heritage in the Balkan region. This will strengthen anti-intolerance measures and reduce the risk of new contrasts taking place. The destruction of the bridge at Mostar, as well as the similar fate undergone by the library in Sarajevo, by the Buddha statues in Afghanistan and the plundering of the ancient art treasures in Iraq were all clear signs of the brutal meanness that humanity can come to when cultural and ethical values are denied. I urge people in the Balkans not to shy away from the big challenge facing them - namely, implementing a policy of interethnic cooperation. The unity of Europe is there for them as an example, as a prospect for the future. Our reconciliation shows that their reconciliation, too, is possible. Goodwill and the promotion and safeguarding of human rights can allow peoples to live together peacefully for the benefit of all. Wisdom is the key to overcoming existing uncertainties, and to removing animosity in order to tackle any attempt at separation. This", he concluded, "is the condition to join the new Europe".

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Replica Replaces Ancient Bridge Destroyed by War

By Laura Elston, PA News, in Mostar

The destruction of the Old Bridge in Mostar during the Bosnian war severed the city’s "main blood pipe", locals said today. Now rebuilt after crumbling into the River Neretva in November 1993, the new Stari Most has given some hope of mending the divisions that still exist 11 years later. 

Nerman Pala, who lived through the bloody conflict which devastated Mostar, recalled his fond memories of the 16th century monument. The 47-year-old described from his mother’s open-fronted trinket stall on the Moslem eastern bank how, as youngsters, he and his friends would take girlfriends for strolls across the bridge. "We used to date there – on the bridge and around.

It was romantic. "We’re rebuilding our memories today." He said young boys used to jump the 27 metres from the highest point of the arched Ottoman architecture into the river as a measure of their bravery. "I jumped with my legs, but I didn’t dive. It was a test of manhood," he said.

A history teacher who was born in the city, Mr Pala said he hoped the opening of the replica today would lead to reunification of the city. After the war, Mostar was left divided into a Croat-run western half, and Moslem-run eastern section, separated by the aqua green tranquil river. "Every citizen of Mostar, of Bosnia, lives for this moment. It’s the renovation of a normal way of living.
"It’s rebuilding tolerance," he said as he watched police stroll up and down the recently restored cobbled Kujundziluk narrow street, which runs high above the side of the river. A huge security operation was in place for the many dignitaries attending the bridge’s inauguration. "Before it was destroyed it was the main blood pipe of this town," Mr Pala said. Recalling the conflict, he added: "I was here through the war bearing some tragic scars, both in my soul and on myself. I lost people, but today I’m a most happy man.

"In Mostar we call our father a nice name – Stari, it means old. That’s exactly how we call our bridge and Stari is back." Another shopkeeper, 65-year-old Ramiz Pandur, watched Croat forces shell the bridge the day before it fell. He saw the onslaught from his basement window around 400 metres away. "When I saw it I was frozen. The bridge was protected by tyres which were hung over the side to stop the grenades. "Thirteen grenades hit. I went to the local police station and told them. They went quiet. "After that I came back here. The people passing by round here were crying. They weren’t saying a word. The bridge itself is a mark of our lives." 

Mr Pandur said the next day the bridge was hit again by three grenades, and fell into the water. Today, the pensioner, believed to be the oldest of the shopkeepers, was inviting Croat friends to his house to celebrate the reopening of the new bridge. This is a very good day and should be celebrated by all sides," he said.

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Bosnia Bridge Is Symbol of Past - and Future

By Laura Elston, Deputy Court Correspondent, PA News in Mostar, Bosnia

The ancient city of Mostar celebrated today as the official inauguration of its historic bridge, reduced to rubble during the brutal war, finally got under way. Heads of state from across Eastern Europe gathered to mark the poignant occasion nearly 11 years after the Ottoman monument was brought down and obliterated by Croat forces in 1993.
The Prince of Wales joined international top envoy to Bosnia Lord Ashdown and EU Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten, for the historic opening of the replica of Stari Most.
In temperatures of 40C (about 104F), scores of VIPs crammed under shade on riverside terraces as dignitaries delivered their speeches.
The President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Sulejman Tihic described the event as a "victory of peace" and spoke of "clashes and divisions being behind us forever".
Mr Patten said: "This bridge is an important symbol for Bosnia Herzegovina’s future."
He said it marked a "turning of the page" for the country which faced "murder and mayhem" during the Bosnian war.
While the ceremony was confined to politicians such as the President of Serbia-Montenegro and other heads of the former Yugoslav republic, locals were set to enjoy a spectacular opening event on the bridge this evening.
The Prince, who was representing the UK, walked down the steep cobbled street which runs parallel to the River Neretva on the Muslim run eastern side.
Clutching a Panama hat to shelter him from the sun, he looked towards the new Stari Most surveying the architecture of the elegant arch bridge.
As the Prince arrived, artists in the shops along the narrow pathway continued to work on pictures of Mostar’s famous landmark.
Inside their small businesses were hung rows of pictures of the 16th century monument, which was destroyed during fighting on November 9, 1993.

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Celebrations symbolise Mostar's hopes

By Nick Hawton - BBC, Mostar

As darkness descended, the diver climbed onto the edge of the bridge, flaming torches held in each hand. A moment later he was plunging the 25 metres down into the rushing waters of the Neretva River. The Mostar Bridge was finally open. It was a night of spectacular celebration marking the rebirth of one of the Balkans' most famous historical landmarks the Stari Most or "Old Bridge" of Mostar. 
Hundreds of VIPs gathered on the banks of the river to watch an evening of music, and dance, culminating in a fireworks display above the new bridge. "It's a great day for my city and my country," said Adi Fejzic, a Muslim and an English lecturer at the local university. 

"I'm very glad that the bridge has been rebuilt. It's a great symbol of our city," said Damir Sopta, a Catholic Croat who works in a local bank. 

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Hina News Line
MOSTAR, July 23 (Hina)

The central ceremony of reopening the Old Bridge in Mostar began at 21.00 hours on Friday with the playing of the Bosnian national anthem and the European Union anthem "Ode to Joy" by Ludwig van Beethoven. 



Mostar bridge reopens after war destruction
Sat 24 July, 2004 03:32 - By Nedim Dervisbegovic

MOSTAR, Bosnia (Reuters) - The Bosnian city of Mostar has joyfully unveiled its rebuilt 16th-century bridge, almost 11 years after its destruction in war became a symbol of the conflicts that tore the former Yugoslavia apart. The new "Stari Most" (Old Bridge) over the Neretva River, which separates the mainly Muslim and mainly Croat sides of Mostar and a front line during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, was inaugurated at a spectacular ceremony with a guest list of international dignitaries.

Fireworks lit up the sky high above the elegant single-span arch and nine of Mostar's legendary divers, brandishing torches, leapt into the green rushing waters of the Neretva from the bridge packed with children singing an anti-war song.

"I think this is a new beginning, that's what citizens have been telling me too. You can feel a special atmosphere all over," Mostar's Muslim mayor, Hamdija Jahic, told Reuters earlier on Friday. More than 2,000 people took part in the evening ceremony, including Bosnian folk dancers, child choirs and brass bands from both sides of the divided town as well as leading Bosnian musicians and singers.

Hundreds of Mostar citizens and tourists watched the celebrations, perched in houses and cafes around the bridge. Thousands then flooded the Old Town, eager to take a walk across the bridge. "This feeling is hard to describe. I spent my childhood, my youth, my whole life here. I just hope other things in Mostar will soon look more like they were before," said Amela Hadrovic, a 38-year-old ethnic Muslim office worker, after crossing over.

Britain's Prince Charles, leaders from other Balkan states, French and Italian Foreign Ministers Franco Frattini and Michel Barnier and European Union external affairs commissioner Chris Patten were present. A choir sang Beethoven's "Ode to Joy".

Throughout the day, the 29-metre (95-foot) bridge was the focus of all attention in the eastern, Muslim quarter. The narrow streets in the Old Town were packed despite scorching heat and heavy security.

The end of the reconstruction comes a few months after Bosnia's peace overseers imposed a new statute intended to finally unify the town. Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims still lead separate lives, but tensions have eased in recent years.

UNESCO and the World Bank, whose officials attended the ceremony, led the $15 million project to reconstruct the bridge, assisted by institutions and governments including the Council of Europe, Croatia, Turkey and Italy. The original bridge was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent about 100 years after Turkey's Ottoman empire claimed the Balkans.

It stood the tests of time and war until November 1993, when it succumbed to Bosnian Croat high explosives in an attack condemned globally as an act of vandalism.

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Bosnia has reopened a rebuilt ancient bridge in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina, that had been destroyed during the Bosnian war in 1993. The reopening of the 16th century bridge is being seen as a major symbol of reconciliation between Muslims and Croats. A team of high divers, traditional dancers and fireworks were part of a ceremony inaugurating the rebuilt Stari Most, or Old Bridge.

Top international representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina Lord Paddy Ashdown said the structure proves that "hope triumphs over barbarism". "Putting the bridge and its surroundings back together again provides an extraordinary opportunity for reconciliation among the peoples of Bosnia-Herzegovina," World Bank managing director Shengman Zhang said during the ceremony. Representatives of over 50 countries attended the opening ceremonies, including regional leaders and foreign ministers of France, Italy, and the Netherlands.

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Sky news –


Mostar's famous Old Bridge, blown up by Croat forces in 1993 during the Bosnian civil war, has been reopened. A spectacular ceremony attended by international guests marked the inauguration of the bridge.

Bosnian folk dancers, children's choirs and brass bands took part. Britain's Prince Charles, and Prime Ministers and Presidents from neighbouring Balkan states were present.


Republic of Turkey Ministry of foreign affairs


Culture and Tourism Minister Erkan Mumcu is due to travel today to Bosnia-Herzegovina to attend the opening ceremony of the rebuilt historical Mostar Bridge. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was scheduled to attend the ceremony, has postponed his visit due to last night’s train accident in Sakarya. /Turkiye/



The newspaper - - The website –

A bridge that spans hatred and hope

Its destruction symbolised the bitterness of the Bosnian war. Now, after more than a decade, it has been rebuilt. Vesna Peric Zimonjic reports from Mostar - 23 July 2004

Today a dozen men will fall from the bridge that became a symbol of death and destruction. They will flail and yell, but their cries will be filled with joy. For theirs is to be a leap into the future; a leap from the new Mostar Bridge - a bridge that carries hopes of unity.

Eleven years after it was destroyed by Croat shells in the savage Bosnian war, the reconstructed Old Bridge of Mostar proudly overlooks the emerald waters of the Neretva river again. It is to be opened for pedestrians today in a magnificent ceremony intended not only to bring some 50 heads of states and top international officials here, but also help the badly needed healing process in this country.

The final stage of the ceremony will be a collective dive of 12 young men into the quick and chilly Neretva river, some 20 metres below. They will dive with torches in their hands, but otherwise in a manner made traditional by their fathers and grandfathers.

The Tourist Association of Mostar, yesterday announced it expected to earn €25m once the bridge is officially open. This is a large amount of money in a poor country like Bosnia and especially in this part - Herzegovina.

Mr Orucevic was the mayor of Mostar from 1994 to 2001, during some of the worst fighting. He now heads one of the most prominent non-governmental organisations here, the Centre for Peace and Multi-ethnic Cooperation.

"About 12 years after the war started, people finally saw how senseless it was. I think that Mostar should become the model for the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina in its effort to restore the multi-ethnic life," he said.

His optimism was echoed by Izet Ibric, a shopowner in the Old Town. "We all hope for the best now that the tourists have started coming in. And the re-opening of the bridge should help. It was the soul of Mostar."

Paddy Ashdown, the European Union Special Representative in Bosnia, said yesterday that the destruction of Old Bridge in 1993 symbolised "the momentary triumph of evil". "Its reconstruction represents a permanent triumph of will, the will to do whatever is necessary to ensure the ultimate victory of civilisation over primitivism, " Mr Ashdown told a seminar in Mostar.


Daily Reflector –

Bosnia Reopens Bridge That Symbolized War

Associated Press Writer

The reconstruction of the stone span — which had survived centuries of conflict, including two world wars, before it was shattered — raised hopes that the war-wrecked nation could rebuild a multiethnic society.

"It is good that we closed the gap over the Neretva River," said Eldin Palata, a cameraman from Mostar who shot footage of the bridge tumbling into the river when it collapsed 11 years ago.

"But until we close the gap in our heads, there will be no real progress. This is a good chance to allow our children to put behind all the evil of the war."

Britain's Prince Charles, British actor John Cleese of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" fame, and more than 200 other dignitaries from 52 international delegations were on hand for the festivities, which began early Friday with a symbolic performance of brass bands from Croatia, a predominantly Catholic country, and Turkey, a mainly Muslim nation.

The bridge, built under the Turkish Ottoman empire, was destroyed midway through a war that killed 260,000 people and drove another 1.8 million from their homes.

More than 2,100 performers were taking part in concerts and other activities, including displays of diving from the bridge by local daredevils.

The area around the bridge was off-limits to most Mostar citizens, who watched the nationally televised festivities at home. Security was tight, with more than 2,300 police officers mobilized to seal off the heart of the city. Helicopters patrolled overhead and police divers watched the river.

The destruction of this bridge a decade ago brought home to many around the world the full force of the evil that was happening here," said Paddy Ashdown, Bosnia's international administrator.

"I hope and believe that its reopening today will be an equally powerful moment — the moment when hope for the future of this country became stronger than the fear of the past."

Reconstruction work began in 1997, but the rebuilding of the 95-foot span got under way in earnest in June 2002, after workers extracted the scattered remnants from the riverbed. The project cost $15 million, much of which was donated by the United States, Turkey, Italy, Netherlands and Croatia, as well as numerous organizations and individuals.

Last summer, workers hoisted the final stone into the central arch, restoring the splendor of the span known before the war as an emblem of a crossroads between East and West, Islam and Christianity.

UNESCO chief Koichiro Matsuura called the bridge's reconstruction "an act of recovery and commitment for the future. It represents a desire for peace and hope for the better future."

The reopening "stands as a victory for peace, a victory for Bosnia as a multiethnic and multicultural society," said Sulejman Tihic, who heads Bosnia's multiethnic presidency.




Commissioner Chris Patten visits Sarajevo & Mostar 22-23 July
IP/04/966 - Brussels, 20 July 2004

Chris Patten, Commissioner for External Relations, will be visiting Sarajevo on 22nd July, before travelling to Mostar on 23rd July for the opening of the "Old Bridge". During the visit he will meet the High Representative, Lord Ashdown, Prime Minister Adnan Terzić, Foreign Minister Mladen Ivanić, Minister of Security Bariša Čolak and the Director for European Integration Osman Topčagić. This will be an opportunity to discuss progress by the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in implementing reforms necessary for the European Commission to recommend opening of the negotiations for a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Commissioner Patten will attend the first meeting of the Police Restructuring Commission and visit the new State Information Protection Agency, reflecting the European Commission’s provision of over €10 million for Police reform in BiH.

On the eve of the visit Commissioner Patten said: "Bosnia and Herzegovina has achieved significant progress since the beginning of this year and I will encourage the government to do its utmost to fulfil the outstanding steps outlined in the Commission’s Feasibility Study. This country’s path to Europe is set, but the pace can only be determined by the BiH authorities. If the current Commission is to recommend moving onto the next stage, Bosnia and Herzegovina must prove to us that it is able to implement reforms and fulfil its international obligations such as arresting indicted war criminals."

During the visit the Commissioner will stress that strengthening the rule of law is one of the priorities for Bosnia and Herzegovina. With significant international input and support, BiH has begun to address weaknesses in the area of justice and home affairs. The European Union (EU) is prepared both to assist financially and to provide expertise through the EU Police Mission and a variety of projects helping the reform of the police forces and the judiciary.

On the second day of his visit the Commissioner will participate in the official opening of the reconstructed "Old Bridge" in Mostar. This bridge is the symbol of the city of Mostar and the opening ceremony coincides with the 10th anniversary of the start of the European Union reconstruction of Mostar. The Commissioner will, together with the High Representative Lord Ashdown, hold an open discussion with students from both Mostar universities. He will meet returnees to the former frontline which used to divide the town, largely rebuilt by the EU and visit the Youth Centre "Centar za kulturu" reconstructed by the European Union.



Famous bridge re-opens in Mostar

Mostar's famous Old Bridge, blown up by Croat forces in 1993 during the Bosnian civil war, reopens on Friday. The bridge is meant to symbolise reconciliation and has been rebuilt with original and new stones with funds donated by the international community. About 50 dignitaries including Britain's Prince Charles will attend the opening.



Distrutto dalla guerra rinasce il ponte di Mostar, simbolo di riconciliazione

MOSTAR (BOSNIA-ERZEGOVINA), 23 LUGLIO 2004 - E' stato inaugurato oggi il Vecchio ponte di Mostar, in Bosnia Erzegovina. Preparata da mesi dal regista Sulejman Kupusovic, la giornata dello 'Stari Most', vedra' la partecipazione di oltre 2.000 tra musicisti, ballerini e cantanti.
Dopo le cerimonie con gli ospiti stranieri, principi, presidenti, capi di governo e ministri, alle 20:30 comincera' il grande spettacolo: due tenori, dalle due torri che fiancheggiano il ponte, intoneranno l'Inno alla gioia e poco dopo, sulle note dei Carmina Burana sette atleti restituiranno al ponte una vecchia tradizione tuffandosi con una torcia in mano nelle acque della Neretva, un salto di oltre 20 metri.
Centinaia di colombe, simbolo di pace, verranno liberate sul fiume e verra' 'acceso' un ponte di luce come segno di unione delle due sponde. Mille bambini, su una pedana allestita proprio sotto il ponte, canteranno 'Basta che non ci sia la guerra', una canzone di Djordje Balasevic, un cantante serbo molto amato in Bosnia. 

Per l'occasione sono arrivate a Mostar la Filarmonica di Sarajevo , l'orchestra militare di Vienna, il coro del teatro nazionale di Novi Sad oltre a musicisti austriaci, turchi, croati, serbi, e montenegrini.



ISN Information Services (Zurich) ISN Security Watch 01.07.2004

'Heaven's rainbow'

Emir Balic, a legendary Mostar diver who is now 67 years old, said that he was skeptical when reconstruction began. "I was against reconstruction because that new bridge could never be my Old Bridge. I thought it would be best to leave the remains of the bridge where they are, in the water, just to remind us what people are capable of," he told Security Watch. But now, with the reconstruction essentially completed, fond memories have returned, though he has his doubts he will take the plunge again in his old age. But still, he says, "maybe once more for old times' sake". Architect Manfredo Romeo from General Engineering Working group, which provided the final designs for the Stari Most, described in a recent interview the relationship between the bridge and the citizens of Mostar as a "peculiar" one. "The Old Bridge in Mostar is undoubtedly quite peculiar because of its symbolic value, because of the reason it was destroyed, and for all the political and social consequences that are related to it..."


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