Serbs Offer Terms for a Cease-Fire Carter to Relay Proposal to Bosnian Leader

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Bosnian Serbs told former President Jimmy Carter on Monday that they would lay down their arms and talk peace - but only on their terms - if the Bosnian government agreed to an immediate cease-fire.

Carter said he would present the offer to Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic in nearby Sarajevo today in the hope of reviving stalled efforts to end the armed clash, Europe's worst since World War II.

Carter was scheduled to leave Sarajevo later today for Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, where he was to meet with President Slobodan Milosevic.

Monday's proposal by rebel Bosnian Serbs for a four-month cease-fire and a resumption of negotiations would, in effect, reduce a U.S.-backed peace plan to merely the starting point for a new round of talks.

So far, the United States has refused to accept such an idea.

But Carter, who briefed Deputy White House national security adviser Sandy Berger by telephone about the offer, said the proposal offered a way to break an impasse in efforts to end 32 months of fighting.

"I am pleased with the progress we have made," Carter said after an eight-hour meeting on Monday with Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, at his headquarters near Sarajevo.

In a CNN interview afterward, Karadzic said a cease-fire would only be possible after the Muslim-led government agreed to an end to the fighting, seemingly contradicting Carter's interpretation that an immediate cease-fire might be possible.

"Once we reach an agreement on a cessation of hostilities, we will implement a cease-fire," Karadzic said.

He said that an agreement he reached with Carter was only to "explore the possibility to implement an immediate cease-fire."

Dozens of cease-fires have been declared in the Bosnian war only to collapse within hours or days.

Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were greeted in Pale by Karadzic and other Bosnian Serb leaders and were presented with bouquets.

The meeting started off with Karadzic lecturing Carter on the history of U.S.-Serb relations. Mrs. Carter sat at the former president's side taking notes.

Then Karadzic, whose forces have fanned ethnic tension and been widely blamed as the aggressors in the war, complained of poor press coverage.

"I can't dispute your statement that they (Americans) have heard primarily one side of the story," Carter replied. "It may be that today is one of the rare chances to let the world know the truth and to explain the commitment of the Serbs to a peace agreement. …