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Saturday, 6 April, 2002, 21:07 GMT 22:07 UK
Bosnia marks war anniversary
Rifat, left, and Ljiljana Begovic visit the grave of their only son, Almir
Commemorations have been muted
Bosnians have marked the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of war in the region, in memory of more than 200,000 who died during the brutal conflict.

People laid flowers at the spot in Sarajevo where some of the first victims were killed and at the graves of friends and family who died in the almost four years of fighting.

Sarajevans carrying Olga Sucic, one of the first victims of the Bosnian 1992-95 war, in downtown Sarajevo
The shooting at the Sarajevo rally claimed the war's first victims
"My memories are bad. It was a time of aggression when many innocent people lost their lives here," said Nedzad Kovacevic, putting flowers at a friend's grave in a Sarajevo ceremony.

There were few official commemorations of the anniversary but artists organised a day of events, including theatre performances and photo exhibitions in Sarajevo to remember what people endured during the city's 43-month siege.

More than six years after the conflict ended, the scars of war can still be seen in Bosnia. The economy remains in disarray, and many have argued that only the international peacekeeping presence has kept the country stitched together.

Neighbour against neighbour

To this day there remains debate even over the origins of the conflict.

How it unfolded
April 1992: Civil war breaks out, Sarajevo siege
April 1993: Muslim-Croat war starts
March 1994: Muslim-Croat war ends
July 1995: Srebrenica massacre
December 1995: Dayton peace accord
Bosnian Serbs claim the war began on 1 March 1992, with the shooting of a guest at a Serb wedding.

However to most, especially the Bosnian Muslims, the war began on 6 April 1992.

That day, the European Community recognised Bosnia as an independent state and Serbs snipers opened fire on an anti-war demonstration.

In the fighting which followed, Serbs, Muslims and Croats were pitted against one another and atrocities were committed on all sides, as neighbour turned on neighbour.

The international community attempted to intervene in the conflict with a largely ineffective UN-led peacekeeping force.

Finally, in 1995, under US pressure, it brokered the Dayton peace accord and committed peacekeeping troops as well as billions of dollars in reconstruction aid to the region.

'Unnatural state'

The international community's High Representative, Wolfgang Petritsch, who oversees Bosnia's reconstruction, praised the progress made since the accord was signed.

The victims
About 200,000 dead
12,000 killed in Sarajevo siege
Up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed in Srebrenica
"The people of Bosnia-Hercegovina have moved on from the bitterness of the war and its aftermath. They stand on the brink of European integration," he said.

The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, who was in Sarajevo for the anniversary, called for investors to help the country's economic reconstruction.

But Bosnia's wartime Foreign Minister, Haris Silajdzic, said little had been accomplished in terms of bringing Bosnia's different ethnic communities together.

What we have is anything but a multi-ethnic Bosnia

Haris Silajdzic
"Unfortunately there is not much that is positive to draw on from this experience," he told Reuters news agency.

"What we have is anything but a multi-ethnic Bosnia. It is an ethnically divided state which is unnatural."

Under the Dayton agreement, which ended the war, the country was divided into Muslim-Croat federation and an autonomous Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, each with its own government.

War crimes

The UN war crimes tribunal, set up in the wake of the ceasefire, has since issued indictments against dozens of suspected war criminals, and the first genocide convictions were delivered last year.

Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is currently on trial at the Hague court on charges which include genocide in the Bosnian conflict.

But the Bosnian Serb wartime leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic - also indicted on genocide charges - remain at large, despite a recent high-profile attempt to capture them.

The commander of the Nato-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia, SFor, General John Sylvester, said that his troops would catch Mr Karadzic when "conditions were right".

"Nato missed him this time, but Nato's only got to get it right once. Mr Karadzic has got to get it right every time. We'll get him," he said.

Mass graves of those killed in Bosnia continue to be uncovered. Fifteen thousand bodies have so far been discovered, but many of them may never be identified.

The BBC's Allan Little in Sarajevo
"Bosnia is ethnically paralysed and sliding into poverty"
Author on the Bosnian war Tim Judah
"Things are at peace; people can move about"
Former British envoy to the Balkans Paddy Ashdown
"I think Bosnia can become a modern European state"
See also:

01 Apr 02 | Europe
Yugoslavia faces aid freeze
01 Apr 02 | Europe
Bosnia genocide suspect arrested
01 Mar 02 | Europe
Karadzic slips Nato net again
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
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