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Last Updated: Friday, 23 July, 2004, 18:26 GMT 19:26 UK
Mostar bridge instils hope
The rebuilt bridge
Many hope the rebuilt bridge will reunite the divided city
The regional press and officials alike have expressed hope that the reopening of the Old Bridge in Mostar would herald a new chapter of hope and better understanding between the city's divided communities. But Mostar residents were notably less optimistic.

'Tolerance and coexistence'

Bosnian daily Dnevni Avaz quotes the head of the Bosnian presidency, Sulejman Tihic, as saying: "The whole world is with Mostar today."

"The reconstruction of the Old Bridge is a victory for Bosnia-Hercegovina, ethnic coexistence and tolerance. The preservation of Bosnia as a multiethnic state is the preservation of Europe," it quotes him as saying.

Bosnian daily Nezavisne Novine looked forward to "a magnificent" ceremony.

It speaks of "new times of tolerance and coexistence in Mostar and the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina".

But Oslobodjenje, Bosnia's oldest daily, reports scepticism from residents of both sides of the town.

One Croat woman, asked if she believes life will be better after the bridge reopens, replies: "No, it won't, and if anyone tells you any different they are lying."

A Bosnian man tells the same paper: "The rebuilding of the old bridge will not, unfortunately, reunite the town... The divisions remain in people's heads and the bridge won't change anything there."

'A new Mostar'

Croatia's Vecernji list looks ahead to "a long-awaited spectacle, which after years of gloom should send totally different images to the world".

"Despite various problems, the local officials in Mostar have urged the media to show the event in the best possible light, because the reopening of the bridge after a seven-year-long reconstruction, brings hope of a new, different Mostar," it says.

But Vecernji list also bemoans the fact that the original plans for the ceremony had to be significantly scaled down due to a lack of funds.

Some of the guests have had to stay in the neighbouring towns, it says, due to insufficient number of hotels and poor infrastructure in the city.

The paper suggests that the central authorities could have been much more generous in their contribution to the reconstruction, which is thought to be about $13m.

"Although the reconstruction of the Old Bridge is believed to be the biggest restoration project in Europe in the past 50 years, the [Bosnia-Hercegovina] state contributed a mere 1.5m convertible marks (around $915,662)."

Similar thoughts preoccupy a writer in the Sarajevo-based Slobodna Bosna.

She says that the state authorities first "halved their 'easily-promised' sum of 10m convertible marks ($6.4m) - which was initially earmarked for the reconstruction ceremony - and then further reduced it to the 'reasonable' 1m convertible marks ($622,707)".

But Mostar residents quoted by the paper are still upbeat.

"We'll show the world that we can still have a great party without lots of money," says one.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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