Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Loss of Sarajevo in Dayton Pact Is Blow to the Hearts of Serbs City Seen as Symbol of Their Struggles

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Loss of Sarajevo in Dayton Pact Is Blow to the Hearts of Serbs City Seen as Symbol of Their Struggles

Article excerpt

THEY WON A separate state and almost half of Bosnia in the Dayton accord. But for hard-liners among the Bosnian Serbs, they lost their soul when they lost Sarajevo.

"There is nothing to be happy about: Sarajevo is theirs," said Stanka Ciric, a shop clerk in Pale, the de facto capital and headquarters of the Serbs in Bosnia. "Where shall we live, in the woods?"

The question of who would control Sarajevo, Bosnia's symbolic heart that has been battered by 43 months of Serb bombardment, was one of the most contentious at the peace talks in Dayton, Ohio.

Serb negotiators had insisted on a divided city, like Cold War Berlin, with separate zones for Muslims, Serbs and Croats. But for the mainly Muslim Bosnian government, and most of the Western allies, a unified Sarajevo was nonnegotiable.

Under the deal announced in Dayton on Tuesday, Sarajevo is entirely incorporated into a federation of Bosnia's Muslims and Croats, one of the two entities making up a partitioned Bosnia.

Before the war, one-third of Sarajevo's population was Serbian. The city holds historic significance for Serbs, standing as a symbol of the Serbian unrest that led the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and ignited World War I. Bosnian Serbs claim 120,000 Serbs still live in the metropolitan area.

The Serbs' historic claim is tenuous, however. The city was founded in the 15th century as a trading center by the Ottoman Turks who had conquered the region, and the city's name is derived from the Turkish word for market. For centuries it was a cosmopolitan crossroads populated by Muslims, Christians and Jews who tolerated ethnic differences in the interest of commerce.

Though some Bosnian Serbs were remorseful about the pounding their forces gave the city during the war, others declared that if they couldn't control the city, they should destroy it. Many dream it will one day be theirs.

The three Bosnian Serb negotiators at the Dayton talks have threatened not to comply with the accord.

Momcilo Krajisnik, the second-ranking Bosnian Serb political official, accused Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who represented the Bosnian Serbs at the talks, of selling out for the sake of relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Serbia and Montenegro, the vestige of Yugoslavia that Milosevic rules. …

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