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Thursday, 7 June, 2001, 20:49 GMT 21:49 UK
Historic Mostar bridge being rebuilt
A Bosnian Muslim woman sells a model of the Mostar bridge
The reconstruction is meant to symbolise reunification
The famous 16th-century bridge of Mostar, a historical heritage site blown up by Bosnian Croat forces in November 1993, is being reconstructed.

Eleven other historical buildings surrounding the Ottoman-era bridge, also destroyed during the 1992-1995 conflict between the Croats and the Muslims, are included in the project.

We want to link peoples in Mostar, which after the conflict remained one of the most destroyed cities in Europe

Rusmir Cisic
Hundreds of residents and scores of dignitaries flocked to the banks of the Neretva River on Thursday morning to attend the ceremony marking the launch of the project.

More than half the sum needed to complete the reconstruction, estimated at $15.5m, has already been raised, with the World Bank extending a $4m loan, and the governments of Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands contributing $4m more.

A healing step

The Bosnian authorities, the United Nations cultural agency (Unesco), the World Monument Fund and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture are also involved in the project.

The rebuilding of the structures is meant to symbolise reunification and is a crucial step in the healing process of the ethnically-divided town of Mostar, which was devastated in the war.

Workers with the Turkish company Yapi Merkezi begin reconstruction work on the Mostar bridge
The intention is to match the original stone span
Project head Rusmir Cisic told the news agency Reuters: "We do not want [the bridge] only to link two sides of a river like bridges usually do."

"We want to link peoples in Mostar, which after the conflict remained one of the most destroyed cities in Europe."

Unesco heritage

The 20m-high, 30m-long, single-span bridge was built in 1566 by Ottoman architect Mimar Hajrudin. It was included in Unesco's world heritage list

Workers with the Turkish company Yapi Merkezi have begun reconstructing and reinforcing the foundations of the monument.

Parts of the bridge rescued from the river after its destruction will be used in the reconstruction. The intention is to rebuild the stone span to match the original.

In the next stage, the project coordinators will choose a company that will reconstruct the arch.

Mr Cisic said: "By the end of the year we shall sign a contract with a company that will complete the reconstruction within 12 months."

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