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Bosnia Notebook

Wed., Feb. 21, 1996

All it took was a few taunts between former enemies, a car crash, a raised flag and shots fired in the air to dash hopes that divided Mostar might be made whole again Tuesday.

Three hundred Muslims slogged through torrential rains to cross the barriers that have cut them off from their Croat neighbors for three long years. But the promised freedom of movement lasted only an hour.

Few Croats tried to cross at all, and a couple of dozen - some in army uniforms, and one wearing a Hitler mask - gathered near a central crossing to heckle the Muslims, dripping wet as they nervously showed identification papers to a Croat policeman.

The Muslim-Croat federation that will control half of Bosnia is a cornerstone of the U.S.-brokered peace accord, and Mostar is a key test of the federation.

But Mostar, a town of 100,000 in southwestern Bosnia, has never overcome animosities stemming from brutal, Muslim-Croat fighting there in 1993-94. The people who are supposed to be allies there by and large remain enemies.

Mixed review for Holbrooke

As Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, the chief U.S. negotiator of the Bosnia peace accord, prepares to leave office today, independent analysts commended his work but expressed doubts that the accord will bring lasting peace.

But Holbrooke, a burly man with a strong personality, took a glass-half-full approach to his work. “We don’t have peace yet, but the country’s not at war,” he said.


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