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BALKANS > Divisions linger as Bosnia marks 20 years of independence

SARAJEVO - Agence France-Presse

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Members of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite Presidency, Zeljko Komsic (L) and Bakir Izetbegovic (C) pay respect at the Military memorial for Muslim and Croat combatants who died during Bosnia's 1992-95 war. AFP photo

Members of Bosnia and Herzegovina's tripartite Presidency, Zeljko Komsic (L) and Bakir Izetbegovic (C) pay respect at the Military memorial for Muslim and Croat combatants who died during Bosnia's 1992-95 war. AFP photo

Bosnia marked 20 years of independence from the former Yugoslavia today with a celebration that revealed the deep ethnic divisions still haunting a country torn apart by war in the 1990s.

Only the Muslim Croat entity marked the anniversary, as Bosnia's ethnic Serbs do not recognise the date as a national holiday.

Muslim and Croat members of Bosnia's three-man presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic and Zeljko Komsic, visited symbolic sites linked to the 1992-95 war that broke out after a declaration of independence was rejected by Bosnia's Serbs.

"Today our thoughts are firstly with those whose loved ones gave their lives to defend freedom and the right to a dignified life," said Izetbegovic, whose father Alija Izetbegovic was independent Bosnia's first president.
 
Izetbegovic and Komsic laid flowers at a cemetery in Sarajevo for those who fought for the city during a 44-month siege by Bosnian Serb troops. Wreaths will also be laid later today at a monument to the 1,500 children who were among the 10,000 people killed in the siege.

The Bosnian Serb member of the presidency, Nebojsa Radmanovic, was not present at the ceremony.

Independence is not celebrated in the Serbs' Republika Srpska -- which together with the Muslim-Croat Federation makes up present-day Bosnia.

Muslims and Croats voted to break away from the Yugoslav federation in a 1992 referendum that was boycotted by Bosnian Serbs.

March/01/2012

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