BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- A triumphant Bosnian Ser assembly officially pronounced a United Nations-backed peace plan "dead" and began pressing ideas yesterday for securing the separate state they have sought in Bosnia-Herzegovina's 13-month civil war.
The self-proclaimed legislature, gathering in its de facto capital -- the beautiful Sarajevo ski resort of Pale -- said Bosnian Serbs rejected the peace plan by a 96 percent "no" vote in last weekend's referendum.
On a second referendum question, overwhelming support was cast for an independent "Serb republic" in Bosnia with the right to unite with other peoples and states. That gave Bosnian Serb leaders an endorsement to seek unity with Serb-dominated Yugoslavia or a confederation with Bosnian Muslims and Croats.
Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic immediately offered a confederation with rival Muslims and Croats, saying the "peace process remains very much alive," even though the international peace plan had been rejected.
Mr. Karadzic has also publicly proposed two new negotiators -- former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.
Whatever the mechanics and the maneuvers, the Bosnian Serbs had ample room for self-congratulation.
They have defied the outside world, braving threats of U.S. bombing and standing firm even when Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic abandoned them. He had called their refusal to accept the peace plan the act of a drunken poker player gambling all his chips in one last round.
The outside world is in disarray over what to do about Bosnia, according to diplomats here. Two weeks ago, the United States seemed ready to lead foreign military intervention. On Monday, the Clinton administration said that Bosnia is a European problem and that it will not act alone.
The peace plan, drafted by Cyrus R. Vance, former U.S. secretary of state, and Lord Owen, former British foreign secretary, would have divided Bosnia into 10 semi-autonomous regions along ethnic lines. A central government would have been placed in Sarajevo.
Now, the Vance-Owen map is no longer being talked about as sacrosanct. Even U.S. Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher is saying that the borders on the Vance-Owen map were open to change.
This is crucial for the Bosnian Serbs. Their major objection to the Vance-Owen map was that it denied them corridors joining their territory into one state: as they put it, they were being reduced to a string of isolated enclaves.
HTC They were particularly upset about being denied the vital northern corridor linking their areas. Moreover, major industrial centers would have been in the hands of Muslims or Croats under the Vance-Owen map.
Although Serbs bear principal guilt for starting the Bosnia war, attention is now focusing on Croatian atrocities and "ethnic cleansing" in the town of Mostar as Croatian forces fight for additional territory.
A confederation is one that Bosnia-Herzegovina may find almost impossible to escape, whether it be in one, five or 10 years.
The economic structure of the region is interdependent. Moreover, the Bosnian Serbs no longer seem to think in terms of union with Serbia.
Many diplomats believe that this is the future of the former Yugoslavia. Even Slovenia, which managed to break away from Yugoslavia relatively painlessly, is suffering severe economic problems from the loss of its traditional markets.