Bosnian rivals unite to rule town

SARAJEVO, Apr 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) A multi-ethnic town council met in the northern Bosnian port of Brcko on Friday for the first time since the bitter 1992-95 Bosnian war.

The strategic town, once the scene of heavy fighting and ethnic cleansing, was seized by the Serbs early in the war and held by them until recently. The new council is seen as a model for Bosnia's attempts to regain its multi-cultural identity.

"Today, with the opening of the interim assembly, two of the main pillars of government of the Brcko district of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the executive and legislative branches, are established," the town's internationally-appointed supervisor Robert Farrand said in a speech made available to Reuters.

Earlier this month, Farrand appointed 29 councilors from 11 political parties in Bosnia's two regions - the Moslem-Croat federation and the Serb republic - as legislators in Brcko.

A U.S.-chaired arbitration panel ruled last year that Brcko, a port on the Sava river, should be a neutral district beyond the rule of Bosnia's two entities.

Farrand stressed that the current formation of the assembly was temporary and that elections would be held in the future.

"I view this interim period as crucial in establishing a new, transparent, and accountable way of conducting the affairs of this district," Farrand said in the speech.

For the first time since the war broke out in 1992, the speaker of the municipal assembly is a Moslem from the opposition Social Democratic party. His deputy comes from the nationalist Serb Democratic Party, as well as the Brcko mayor.

Original article