Bosnia: Muslims and Serbs in rift over bridge on Sava
Tihic said Dodik had no right to sign the agreement to build a modern bridge over the Sava River near the town of Sremska Raca northwest of Belgrade. The new bridge, which Serbia has offered to construct at its own expense, is intended to facilitate the flow of people and goods between the two countries, and clear a decades-old bottleneck that causes long tailbacks of vehicles at the border crossing.
Dodik has dismissed Tihic's allegations of an anti-Muslim plot and claims the RS received clearance to sign the Sava bridge agreement from the central Bosnian authorities. He has accused Tihic of using the bridge as political tool to coalesce the Muslim vote ahead October parliamentary elections.
"Instead of touring Arab countries and collecting money to build mosques, Tihic would do better if he collected money for at least one bridge," Dodik commented.
Bosnian transport minister Branko Dokic, a Serb, said his ministry backs the deal, claiming that it is in the best interest of Serbia and the RS. "Bosnia-Herzegovina should be grateful to Serbia for such an important donation, because even in Andric's stories, bridges brought people together rather than dividing them," said Dokic.
He was referring to Yugolslav Nobel laureate Ivo Andric (1892-1975), who claimed that bridges best symbolised closeness and brought people closer. His novel 'The Bridge on the Drina', for which he won the 1961 Nobel prize for literature, describes relations between Serbs and Muslims over four centuries of occupation under the Ottoman Empire. The Drina River is in Visegrad, now eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Under the Dayton peace accord which ended the 1992-1995 civil war, Bosnia was divided into two entities, a Muslim-Croat federation and the RS. Animosities between Serbs, Croats and Muslims still run high in Bosnia and can surface over such apparently benign issues as the building of a bridge.