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Food Available at a Price, but Sarajevo’s Mood Slumps

August 1, 1992

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ To buy eggs at half the price they cost in town, or snap up tomatoes, a rarity in this besieged city, residents risk a sniper-lined route dotted with roadblocks manned by Croat and Muslim militias.

At the end of the 4-mile road, goods are hawked by Croats at a roadside market, where the most-prized provisions are Serbian.

Such is life in Sarajevo’s fragmenting world.

″Some buy just for their family, others buy to sell - they can live off that,″ said Janja Ruzic, a merchant selling potatoes, cauliflower and squash that she grows in her garden in Stup, a Croatian suburb bordering Serb-held Ilidza in western Sarajevo.

A month’s salary, averaging $6.60, buys 15 eggs in Stup, compared to only seven eggs at stalls at Sarajevo’s downtown market.

Whenever fighting eases enough to make traveling the road worth the cost, Mrs. Ruzic said, ″I’m sold out by 8 a.m.″

A neighbor furtively opened his garage door Saturday to reveal crates of fresh tomatoes, unavailable in the hungry Bosnian capital since war erupted five months ago.

″Don’t ask me where they’re from,″ he said, refusing to give his name.

The tomatoes were packed in cases bearing the seal of a Belgrade food chain and had come from Ilidza, the Bosnian Serb area nearby.

Sarajevo’s dominant Muslims increasingly believe Bosnia’s Serbs and Croats are colluding to carve up Bosnia-Herzegovina with the blessing of Serbia and Croatia.

Serb forces already control 60 percent of the war-torn republic; the Croats control 30 percent.

Although the United Nations has reopened Sarajevo airport for relief flights, and other food supplies are filtering in through channels such as Ilidza and Stup, the city’s mood is black.

″It looks like a done (Serb-Croat) deal,″ grumbled Atif Saronjic, Muslim commander of a Bosnian territorial defense unit in a western suburb. Food aid is like ″feeding us up like cattle for the slaughter.″

Instead of breaking out west through Ilidza to join up with well-armed Croatian forces beyond, Muslim-led forces on Friday pushed northwest in a counterattack to link up with their own outgunned units in central Bosnia.

It is not clear why organized Croat forces, under the command of Mate Boban, leader of ethnic Croats in Bosnia-Herzegovina, have not added their military might to the Muslim-led fight to save the city.

But their hesitation has only fueled speculation among residents of Sarajevo that Croats are conspiring with ethnic Serbs to divide Bosnia.

Muslims feel trapped, and the social fabric of Sarajevo - a city where Serbs, Croats and Muslims once lived in harmony - is unraveling.

″Even a month ago, we hoped that after this we could all live together again,″ said Zdravko Grebo, a prominent independent journalist. ″But Sarajevo will never be the same again.″

Before the airport reopened June 29, food, medicine and other goods were short for all, and solidarity abounded. Now that food is available, smuggling, crime and extremism are on the rise.

Locals believe it’s all connected to the proliferation of often shady militias.

Grebo said the city is sliding into ″basic anarchy, where local ‘godfathers’ have no respect for their chief commander.″

″I think about 80 percent of people would be prepared to leave now and not look back at their apartments or property,″ he added.

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