Wednesday, March 26, 2008


VIŠEGRAD, Bosnia (March 26,2008) — The Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad,a 16th century stone bridge over the Drina River,has been added to UNESCO's World Heritage List, the organization's director said yesterday.

The Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge is the second monument in Bosnia that UNESCO has recognized, after the Old Bridge in Mostar.

The 589-foot bridge has 11 stone arches and was built at the end of the 16th century.The bridge was named after one of the most famous Grand Viziers of the Ottoman Empire Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, who was born in Visegrad in 1505, and who ordered the construction of the bridge to connect the banks of the Drina river once he returned to Bosnia as Grand Vizier.

The structure is considered a masterpiece of Ottoman architecture and engineering.

UNESCO has recognized its "outstanding universal value," UNESCO Director Koichiro Matsuura said in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, where he was presenting the Bosnian authorities with a certificate on the listing of the bridge.

"Its cultural value transcends both national and cultural borders," he said.

The bridge connects the two banks of the Drina, which throughout history has marked the border between Bosnia and the genocidal Serbia.

Writer Ivo Andric, who was born in Bosnia but spent the second half of his life in Serbia declaring himself "a Serbian", won a Nobel prize for literature in 1961, following the publication of "The Bridge on the Drina", in which he wrote about the building of the Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge in Visegrad,and Ottoman times in Bosnia from the genocidal Serbian point of view.

During the 1992-95 Serbian aggression against Bosnia, Visegrad was a site where war crimes were committed by the Serbian aggressor against the town's Bosnian population.Some 3,000 Bosnian civilians from Visegrad were mass murdered by the genocidal Serbian aggressor, including 121 children.

During yesterday's ceremony in Sarajevo to mark the bridge's listing as a World Heritage Site, the Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic said that those who survived that part of the bridge's history "deserve our respect."

UNESCO Director Koichiro Matsuura's visit to Visegrad was canceled "for security reasons".However,the organizers of the event decided not to hold the ceremony on the bridge after the Bosnian Association of Women Victims of War announced plans to put a plaque on the bridge commemorating genocide victims from Visegrad at a ceremony that was to have coincided with the certificate-awarding ceremony.

Members of this Bosnian association put the plaque on the bridge and read out the names of 3,000 genocide victims from Visegrad.

The World Heritage List includes 851 properties that UNESCO deems worth preserving for their cultural or natural value. Sites on the list are eligible for funding and technical assistance from UNESCO to help with protection and preservation.

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