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In Hasty, Last-Minute Trading, Some See Hope for the Future

February 28, 1996

CEKRCICI, Bosnia Herzegovina (AP) _ The Serb was selling her goat and its 7-day-old kid for $100. The Muslim offered $30.

``This is not a chicken!″ protested Gospava Surbek, the Serb. ``This a goat. Not an ordinary Bosnian goat, but an Alpine one that gives four liters of milk every day. Like a cow.″

Mirza Muratovic, the Muslim, had a strong comeback.

``You have little choice,″ he said, ``because you are moving out of here today.″

His argument was convincing _ Serbs like Surbek are leaving northern suburbs of Sarajevo in droves as the territory is turned over to their wartime enemies.

But the goat deal didn’t go through because Surbek knew there were more potential customers on their way. Muslims are returning to the homes from which they were chased at the beginning of the war _ and are looking to buy.

Even as the former neighbors play out the latest act in the ethnic migrations of the former Yugoslavia, the fact that they are trading instead of shooting gives some hope that they will live side by side again someday.

``This shows that we can still live together,″ said Selim Begic, a Muslim from nearby government-controlled Visoko. ``It shows that trade will bring us back to normal.″

The open-air market has sprouted in the past two weeks along a main highway north of Sarajevo, on the edge of a small rim of Serb-held territory that is being turned over to the government. Serbs visit it before they leave the area to sell animals and household goods they cannot take with them.

It is located on a front line. Only a couple of months ago, the people now trading were shooting at one another.

On Wednesday, about 200 people wandered around the market, surveying its range of offerings: furniture and washing machines, goats and horses, cars and deeds to houses.

Cars with registration plates from all three Bosnian ethnic groups were parked along the road. The atmosphere was relaxed as they dealt in German marks, used as a common currency in the former Yugoslavia.

``Everything is priced extremely low, of course,″ said Begic. ``You can buy a washing machine for 50 marks ($30), or even a big house for 10,000 marks ($6,900). A cow goes for 500 marks ($345).

``But the most important thing is that this shows we are no longer at each others’ throats,″ he said. ``We’re simply trading. Some Serbs may now change their minds and stay.″

The market also served as a neutral meeting place for people who were enemies throughout the war. Some exchanged information on long-lost relatives. Others met friends and neighbors they hadn’t seen in years.

``I feel strange,″ said Mirjana Radic, a Serb from nearby Ilijas, who cried as she hugged a Muslim friend from Visoko.

Amo Rudic, a pale, 79-year-old Muslim who fled Ilijas for Visoko, said he saw a Serb selling his furniture.

``I recognize everything,″ he said, pointing to a pile of furniture loaded on an old trailer. ``This is my sofa and this is my work table. No mistake, almost my whole living room.″

But Rudic did not confront the Serb. Instead, he looked almost happy.

``What can I do?″ he asked. ``There was war, and what I see here is peace.″

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