Key Bosnian Railway Reopens
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ A passenger train sputtered out of Sarajevo today, reopening a key north-south railway and prospects of an economic recovery in Bosnia after 3 1/2 years of war.
Bosnian officials and foreign diplomats boarded the five-coach train headed to the Adriatic port of Ploce, Croatia, after a ceremony in which Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic proclaimed: ``This today is the second opening of the city.″
The Bosnian capital was under siege throughout the war and reopened this spring when Bosnian Serbs handed over five suburbs to the Muslim-Croat federation as called for in the Dayton peace accords.
Officials believe the reconstructed 119-mile railway will provide a major boost to the battered economy by allowing better, faster and cheaper transportation of goods and passengers.
Rail service throughout Bosnia and parts of Croatia was halted during the war and many lines were destroyed.
The United States, other countries and aid organizations gave $10 million in money and equipment to reconstruct the line, which has had no major repairs since 1967 and was damaged during the war. NATO has also agreed to finance reconstruction of Bosnia’s east-west route.
Thousands cheered the arrival of the train, bearing a new sign ``Bosnia-Herzegovina Railroads″ on the locomotive, in the divided southern town of Mostar.
``The time of those who were working on separation has passed and now it’s the time for those who unite,″ said Safet Orucevic, mayor of Muslim-controlled east Mostar.
Until Monday, the train’s initial run was only supposed to go as far as Mostar because Bosnian and Croatian rail companies could not agree on opening the remaining 59 miles to Ploce. A settlement was reached hours before the scheduled departure from Sarajevo.
The railway also stretches 60 miles north of Sarajevo to the Sava River town of Brcko, though that stretch remains closed and in need of repairs. The northern route crosses Bosnian Serb-controlled territory.
Izetbegovic said when the northern part reopens to Brcko ``then it will be the full opening″ of the country.