[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 21:57 GMT 22:57 UK
Mostar bridge opens with splash
Dancers at the opening ceremony for the Mostar bridge
Performers came from both sides of the ethnically divided town
A team of high divers and dancers in traditional dress joined celebrations to mark the reopening of the historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

The 16th-Century bridge was blown up during the bitter fighting in the Bosnian war between the city's Muslims and Croats in 1993.

Its reopening is being seen as symbolic of the healing of divisions between Muslims and Croats.

Fireworks exploded in the sky in the culmination of Friday's noisy ceremony.

The new bridge proves "hope triumphs over barbarism", said Lord Ashdown, the top international representative in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Tradition revived

More than $13m has been spent on restoring the elegant, single-arch structure and surrounding buildings.

A man dives from the bridge at Mostar
The spectacular diving display revived an old Mostar tradition
One of the highlights of Friday's celebrations came as, one by one, nine men leapt from the bridge into the rushing waters of the Neretva river below.

It is the revival of an old tradition by which young men prove their bravery.

Hundreds of Mostar's citizens, international dignitaries and tourists watched the ceremony perched in cafes.

"The destruction of this great bridge a decade ago brought home to millions around the world the full force of the evil that was happening here," Lord Ashdown told the crowds.

"I hope and believe that its reopening today will be an equally powerful moment."

More than 2,000 people took part in the programme, including bands, singers and dancers from both sides of the ethnically divided town.

The reconstruction of the Old Bridge is a victory for Bosnia-Hercegovina, ethnic coexistence and tolerance
Sulejman Tihic
Bosnian presidency head

The vicious war between Mostar's Muslims and Croats which led to the destruction of the bridge ended 10 years ago. The city has made progress in that time, bringing former enemies together.

But Murray McCullough from the European Commission in Mostar says there is still a long way to go.

"The wounds are very deep. They're very fresh and you just can't say hey, you know, 10 years, let's forget about it.

"This will take time."

The hope is that the reopening of the bridge will bring new tourists and new money to the city and encourage both communities to work together more in the future, says the BBC's Nick Hawton.

'A great future'

Arching across the Neretva river, the Stari Most, or Old Bridge, has been reconstructed using the same methods and materials which the original Turkish architects employed nearly 500 years ago.

"The bridge has a great future and something that is not a mosque or church, it's something for all people in general," said Amir Pasic, the man in charge of restoring the bridge.

Mostar's old bridge before, during and after the war

"It's beautiful, it's simple, it's symbolic because crossing the river is something, you know."

The old bridge had been a symbol of Bosnia's multi-ethnic society.

Its destruction by Croat forces in November 1993 graphically illustrated how relations between Bosnia's Muslims, Serbs and Croats had unravelled, descending into all-out war.

Today, the town's Croats and Muslims largely maintain that separation, sending their children to different schools and keeping to their respective sides of the Neretva.

They even have different mobile phone area codes.

The bridge's rebuilding has been welcomed by many, says our correspondent, but no-one is underestimating the gaps that still remain between Bosnia's ethnic groups.

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen
"Escaping the past will take many more years of hard work"

Mostar bridge instils hope
23 Jul 04  |  Europe
Bosnia bridge rises again
22 Aug 03  |  Europe
Srebrenica massacre marked
11 Jul 03  |  Europe
Bosnia's largest mass grave
30 Jul 03  |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific