Monday, June 30, 2008


PRUSAC, Bosnia (June 30,2008) — Thousands of Bosnian Muslims converged on a central Bosnian village of Prusac yesterday in a pilgrimage that was banned for almost half a century under Communist rule.

"I believe this is a holy place since God decided that water should begin to flow without help of any tools or machines," 45-year-old Naza Modric said. "I come here every year. It's a kind of confirmation of my faith."

The pilgrimage saw thousands of Bosnian men, women and children,including some 200 men on horseback,climb a seven-kilometre (four-mile) path leading to a site on Mount Ajvatovica, sacred to Bosnian Muslims for more than five centuries.

Walking up the hill, the pilgrims waved green Islamic flags with white crescents, before stopping in a ravine, which they believe was created by God.

At the site they chanted 'Allahu Akbar',God is Great,and prayed.

According to a true story,dating back to the mid-15th century when Bosnia was within the Ottoman Empire, the village of Prusac had a water supply problem. However, an abundant spring was blocked in a rocky hill.

Local Imam Ajvaz-Dedo found a powerful spring of water near Prusac. The spring had been shut off by a rock 74 meters long and 30 meters wide, which obstructed the construction of a running water system. Ajvaz-Dedo spent 40 days praying to God to split the rock. On the fortieth morning, following his prayers, Ajvaz-Dedo dreamt that two white rams collided and split the rock. When he awoke, he saw the rock split in half. Wooden pipes were placed along the newly formed canyon to take water into Prusac.

Seeing it as a sign of God’s blessing, people began going on pilgrimages to the place where the rock had split.

This year's pilgrimage continues tradition of 498 years of Bosnian Muslims visiting Ajvatovica to honor Ajvaz-Dedo and this God's miracle.From that spot water continues to flow and Bosnian Muslims and even some Christians come here every year to give thanks to God.

Bosnian Muslims walk through legendary canyon during a pilgrimage to Ajvatovica near the central Bosnian village of Prusac. This year's pilgrimage continues tradition of 498 years of Bosnian Muslims visiting Ajvatovica to honor local Imam Ajvaz-Dedo who spent 40 days praying to God to split the rock,74 meters long and 30 meters wide, which obstructed the construction of a running water system. On the fortieth morning, following his prayers, Ajvaz-Dedo dreamt that two white rams collided and split the rock. When he awoke, he saw the rock split in half.

Bosnian Muslims pray together, during a pilgrimage to Ajvatovica near the central Bosnian village of Prusac. This year's pilgrimage continues tradition of 498 years of Bosnian Muslims visiting Ajvatovica to honor local Imam Ajvaz-Dedo who had prayed continuously for 40 days asking Allah to remove obstacles preventing fresh mountain creek water to run towards thirsty people.

Video: Ajvatovica Pilgrimage 2008

"I was so impatient and excited that I had a sleepless night," said Izet Skrobo, who rode some 50 kilometres (30 miles).

"The whole family took care of me," explained the 70-year-old dressed in the Ottoman era style - white shirt, red vest, black trousers and a red fez on his head.

"My wife prepared my clothes, my grand-daughter decorated the horse's head with flowers and my son has prepared it for the trip."

"Life is very hard so I come here to be closer to Allah. It gives me the strength to continue. When I come here my soul fills with faith," 35-year-old Kenan Hodzic said.

Upon reaching the narrow ravine, the women put a towel on the floor and kneel on it to pray.The others try to tear off small pieces of the cliff.

"We put these stones in front of our house during storms so they protect us," Salko Dzenan explained.

The 75-year-old is among those who remember that the Prusac pilgrimage was banned in 1947 by the communist regime of the former Yugoslavia, that Bosnia was briefly part of until 1992.

After Bosnia's democratic elections in 1990 the Ajvatovica pilgrimage was allowed again.

Muslims comprise 44 percent of Bosnia's 3.8 million population, compared with 31 percent for Orthodox Christians and about 10 percent for Catholics.


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (June 30,2008) - Malaysia and Bosnia need to find new approaches in the agricultural sector as a way out to the current global food crisis, the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today.

He said both countries could identify each other’s strengths in the agricultural sector and collaborate in the development of the agro-based industry.

“We must certainly pay attention to the current global crisis concerning food including the big increases in the price of food items,” he said in his opening remarks at the Malaysia-Bosnia delegation meeting at the Malaysian Prime Minister’s Office.

The Bosnian side was led by the Bosnian President Dr Haris Silajdžić. Also present were members of the Bosnian State Presidency Nebojša Radmanović and Zeljko Komšić.

The Bosnian President Dr Haris Silajdžić, who arrived in Malaysia on Saturday was given a state welcome at the parliament square in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

He was met on arrival by the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The national anthems of both countries were then played to the firing of a 21-gun salute before President Silajdžić inspected a guard-of-honour mounted by 108 members of the Malaysian Royal Malay Regiment led by Major Norhisham Kamar.

The Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, cabinet ministers and heads of departments as well as foreign dignitaries were also present at the ceremony.

After the ceremony, President Silajdžić, who is accompanied by the Bosnian senior government officials and leaders from the country, left for Putrajaya for a meeting with Abdullah and to attend a bilateral meeting between Malaysia and Bosnia.

Tonight, the entourage would be feted to a state banquet at the Istana Negara.

The Bosnian President Dr Haris Silajdžić and the Bosnian State Presidency Members Nebojša Radmanović and Željko Komšić are in an official visit Malaysia from June 29 until July 3, 2008.

The Bosnian President Dr Haris Silajdžić will also meet with the King of Malaysia, His Majesty Yang Di Pertuan Agong XIII (Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin).

The visit protocol envisages series of bilateral meeting between the Bosnian delegation and the Malaysian delegation and the meeting between the Bosnian Presidency members and Malaysian businessmen.

The Bosnian Presidency Members, during their visit to Malaysia are scheduled to visit the International Islamic University, the Institute of Economic Planning and the Institute of Diplomacy and International Relations and meet the Bosnian students receiving their education in Malaysia.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (June 30,2008) - Twelve southeastern European countries will launch a new bloc on Tuesday to speed up development and boost ties with the EU, but analysts warn political instability in the region may hamper its efforts.

"Our main goal is to strengthen cooperation between the governments in the region, boost their links with the European Union and monetary institutions with the aim to accelerate development," the Regional Cooperation Council's (RCC) Secretary General, Hido Biscevic said.

The RCC, run exclusively by regional experts, has been headquartered in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo and is to start operating in full force on July 1.

Biscevic stressed the need for a regional approach to economic development.

"Most of the countries in the region are too small, with too small markets, to be able to resist the consequences of globalization armed exclusively with their own national strategy."

In 2007 southeastern European countries registered an average growth of between five and seven percent, double the EU average, the Croatian diplomat emphasized, adding the region was attractive for foreign investment.

Future development programmes will focus on strengthening cooperation in energy and infrastructure sectors, he said.

Biscevic could not specify when the concrete programmes would be developed, but underlined that the EU and the World Bank are to design their development plan for the region in the next few months.

"Our priorities are identical, and that is very important".

The RCC includes Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, the genocidal Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey.

Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia are already EU members, while Turkey, Croatia and Macedonia have a candidate status.

Biscevic sees the fact that the countries are at different stages of accession to the EU as an advantage and a catalyst of cooperation rather then as a barrier.

For example Croatia, as an EU candidate country, "has a strong national security interest to have EU member states as its neighbors," Biscevic said referring to Bosnia and the genocidal Serbia.

Slovenian ambassador to Bosnia Natasa Vodusek said her country, which has held the rotating EU presidency for the past six months, was "interested in regional cooperation within the RCC".

The council should focus on transport infrastructure, she estimated.

"Without better roads, without better rail, air and maritime traffic the countries in the region would remain physically distant from the EU despite all political declarations, good will or pledges."

The three-million-euro RCC budget for the first year is provided in three equal shares by the EU, international monetary institutions and member countries.

The RCC is the successor to the Stability Pact set up by the international community to strengthen peace in the former Yugoslavia following devastating wars in the 1990s.

But besides the spectacular 1999 opening ceremony that took place in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, attended by world leaders including then US president Bill Clinton, the pact remained widely seen as inefficient.

"It was a bureaucratic institution without any substance," said political analyst from Bosnia Emir Habul.

"The RCC has a chance to succeed if it starts working more on technical, economic level.It will happen if the countries recognize their economic interest and get engaged more intensively," Habul stressed.

However, Biscevic warns that current political situation in the genocidal Serbia may hamper his efforts.

"I have to admit that it is difficult to build a house while it is storming outside," he said referring to political situation in the genocidal Serbia following a unilateral declaration of independence by "its" province of Kosovo in February.

"Current political signals in the region are such that they are not going to contribute to regional cooperation," estimated Davor Gjenero, a political analyst from Croatia.

"I’m afraid that presents a significant disadvantage for Mr Biscevic", he said.

Gjenero agreed that concrete economic projects could strengthen the region but expressed doubts that hard line political forces in the genocidal Serbia would be ready to accept such a sort of economic pragmatism.

While admitting that most of countries in the region have a history of difficult relations, Biscevic stressed that they are ready to put the past behind.

All the countries agreed to name the Bosnian capital Sarajevo as the RCC headquarters; he said adding that the move was "charged with symbolism."

"Sarajevo is a geographical center of the region...We wanted it to become a symbol of cooperation."


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (June 30,2008) - The Vatican announced it will form a commission to investigate the apparitions of "the Virgin Mary" in the southern Bosnian town of Medjugorje.

The Bosnian Cardinal Vinko Puljic said that this will be the first Vatican commission ever to visit Medjugorje.

In 1991, a Commission set up by the Bishopric Conference in the former Yugoslavia visited the town, but ruled that nothing out of the ordinary ever took place. The Vatican has never investigated the sightings, nor has it recognized them.

Cardinal Puljic stressed that no swift decision should be expected as the commission will look separately into the apparitions as well as into the work of local clerics. The process of recognition of apparitions by the Vatican usually takes decades.

On June 1981, six young parishioners from Medjugorje reported seeing a white form with a child in her arms on one of the surrounding hills. They interpreted this and other apparitions they reportedly witnessed as "the Virgin Mary".

The story spread quickly and Medjugorje became one of the most popular Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. The development has transformed the remote and poor village into one of the most developed and rich small towns in Bosnia.

Though the Vatican’s lack of recognition has not stopped the pilgrims, it has nearly created a split within the Roman Catholic Church in Bosnia as local priests have continued providing services in the Medjugorje church even when threatened with expulsion from their order.

Mostar’s Catholic Bishop Ratko Perić, who is responsible for the southern Bosnia region, still publicly denies any apparitions in Medjugorje.


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (June 30,2008) - Two Bosnians were killed in woods in northern Bosnia when they stepped on a land mine left over from the 1992-95 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions,Bosnian police said in a statement today.

Ismet Tagic, 48, and Nihad Dagic, 24, were chopping wood on Sunday evening when Tagic stepped on a land mine that killed them both. Two other men were slightly injured from the blast in Turije, some 120 kilometers north of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, police said.

A deadly legacy of the Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia, hundreds of thousands of land mines remain hidden throughout the country, one of the most heavily mined in the world.

After the fighting, documentation was collected on the location of some 350,000 mines, but NATO experts say that represents only one-third of the total number laid during the war.

Clearing the mines will take decades and cost millions of Bosnian Marks.However,foreign donations are decreasing as donors turn toward new crises in other parts of the world.

According to the records of the International Committee of the Red Cross, land mines and other ordinance have injured over 1,500 people in Bosnia, more than 400 of them fatally, since the end of the 1992-95 Serbian,Montenegrin and Croatian aggressions against Bosnia. A fifth of the victims were under 18.


BRCKO, Bosnia (June 30,2008) - After the failure of a USD 150 million project of the District of Brcko to build an ethanol refinery, the construction of a water plant, which should have been completed by the end of August, is also questionable.

The head of the government municipal works department Stevan Zoranovic confirmed that the construction had been halted.

"The contractor has not informed us officially that they have stopped working, but it is a fact that the work is not being done. The problem occurred when the contractor, Austrian Wabag Water, did not pay its suppliers for construction material", said Zoranovic.

The project is worth 10.8 million Bosnian Marks, and was made possible through a government loan to the district.