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Nurturing the democratic debate.  
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04-06-2002 10:00 pm Paris - Reconstruction work on the Stari Most, or the Old Bridge of Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), which was destroyed during the war in the former Yugoslavia, is about to begin, after more than two years of scientific and archeological research to consolidate its foundations and those of the banks of the Neretva River.
To symbolically mark the start of this work, which will take place at the end of June, and as part of the United Nations International Year for Cultural Heritage, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, will hold an information meeting on Thursday June 6 at which the results of other UNESCO restoration and rehabilitation projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina will also be presented. One of the priorities of this International Year is to promote the role of cultural heritage in the reconciliation between peoples.

The reconstruction of the bridge, built in the 16th century by the Ottoman architect Mimar Hajreddin and destroyed at the end of 1993 during the fighting in the former Yugoslavia, is the final phase of a project on which UNESCO, the World Bank, and local authorities have worked for more than two years. An agreement signed between the three parties charged UNESCO with the creation of an International Scientific Committee responsible for the scientific and technical supervision of the reconstruction work of the bridge and the restoration of the main historical monuments of the city.

Italy, Turkey, France, the Netherlands and other donors contributed US$15 million for the rebuilding of the bridge and its two towers, as well as the rehabilitation of the 11 buildings in the historic section of Mostar that were badly damaged during the fighting. Of the total budget, US$2 million dollars came from the municipality of Mostar and US$660,000 dollars came from the Croatian government.

For Mounir Bouchenaki, the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, "the multi-community and multi-cultural composition of the Committee of Experts (...) shows (...) that the Organization has been able to bring past enemies together and reconcile them around monuments that have strong symbolic value and help them cooperate to restore together a cultural heritage that is both an integral part of their shared history and a measure of their common future."

Beyond the reconstruction, UNESCO's aim in bringing back the bridge, a jewel of Ottoman art, is to turn it into a symbol of peaceful co-existence in a city that, between 1992 and 1995, lost more than 2,000 inhabitants during the battles beween Serbs, Croats and Bosnians.
The Stari Most was destroyed on November 9, 1993. During two days of shelling, the bridge was hit 68 times by heavy weapons fire. Its reconstruction should finish late this year or in Spring 2003, depending on the water levels of the Neretva River.

As well as Koïchiro Matsuura, Hamdija Jahic and Neven Tomic, respectively the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Mostar, will address the meeting on Thursday, along with Deputy High Representative Jean-Pierre Berçot and Professor Léon Pressouyre, Chairman of the UNESCO International Scientific Committee for the reconstruction of the Mostar Bridge. The session will end with presentation on the restoration work on the various monuments of the city already completed under UNESCO supervision, such as the Tabacica Mosque, the Little Bridge, and a hammam, which were financed, respectively, by Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, and France.

Journalists wishing to attend the meeting on
Mostar should contact the UNESCO Press Service,
tel : 01 45 68 17 47

For more information :
Lucia Iglesias
Bureau of Public Information
Editorial Section
Tel : 01 45 68 47 28






Source Media Advisory No.2002-20
Author(s) UNESCOPRESS



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