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Sarajevo’s Front-Line Cemetery: Bosnian War In Microcosm With AM-Yugoslavia-Serb Referendum,

August 28, 1994

Sarajevo’s Front-Line Cemetery: Bosnian War In Microcosm With AM-Yugoslavia-Serb Referendum, Bjt

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ The Bosnian Serb fighter scanned the city’s tiny Jewish cemetery with his binoculars and grumbled, ″Peace plan - no way.″

The bombed-out cemetery on the slopes of Mount Trebevic, one of most hotly contested spots on the Sarajevo front, epitomizes the brutality and absurdity of Europe’s worst conflict since World War II.

″We don’t really know why, but hundreds or even thousands of our and their soldiers have died here,″ said the Serb fighter, who would identify himself only as Dragan.

Every tombstone in the 500-year-old cemetery has been destroyed. Dozens of skeletons, skulls and other human remains of soldiers and those buried there years ago are sprawled over the area.

″This is the only place where Muslims and Serbs can remain side by side,″ Dragan said, referring to the unburied bodies. ″In real life, we could never live together again.″

″And now they ask us to sign peace with our enemies and forget everything,″ said Miso Petric, another Serb soldier. ″Does the world think we are crazy?″

Gripped by an us-against-the-world mentality, Bosnia’s Serbs were expected to give a resounding ″no″ to the weekend referendum on the latest international peace plan.

Proposed by the United States, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, the plan would reduce Serb holdings to 49 percent of Bosnia from the 70 percent they have seized. A federation of Bosnian Muslims and Croats, who have accepted the plan, would get 51 percent.

Bosnian Serb leaders say the division would leave them without a true state and prevent them from uniting with Serbia, the largest of two remaining republics in Yugoslavia. The quest for such a union was the reason they rebelled in April 1992 as Bosnia broke from the old Yugoslav federation.

More than 200,000 Bosnians have been killed or are missing since the fighting began.

The Jewish cemetery is on the front line between Bosnian Serbs, who have besieged the capital since war began, and the Muslim-led government army, which desperately tried to break Serb lines on the slopes of Trebevic.

Now roughly half of the 200-yard-by-200-yard cemetery is held by government forces, and they appear to have an upper hand after capturing a small round chapel and turning it into a bunker.

″It has been a grave-by-grave battle here,″ Dragan said. ″One day we would take a couple of graves, sit in them for a few days and then the Muslims would recapture.″

Albert Alkalaj, head of the 52-member Jewish Community that remained in the Serb-held parts of Sarajevo, said the battle for the cemetery ″illustrates the brutal meaningless of the Bosnian war.″

″Muslims and Orthodox Serbs fighting for a Jewish cemetery. Isn’t that absurd?″ he asked.

In Grbavica - in Serb-held Sarajevo - the mood prior to the vote was defiant and glum. The nationalist music blaring from a loudspeaker could not drown out the occasional crack of sniper fire from the nearby front line.

″We would rather all die than accept the plan,″ said Zorica Visnjic, a Serb woman in her 50s. ″The world does not understand our mentality. We are unique.″

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