The official, Muslim-dominated Bosnian parliament in Sarajevo decided almost unanimously to accept the deal. But in his opening speech to the Serbian assembly, meeting in Pale, Mr Karadzic told deputies that his signature on the proposal could lead to the destruction of the self-proclaimed Serbian state in Bosnia, and to that of Serbia proper. Accepting the Geneva proposal, which demands that the Serbs surrender around a third of the territory they hold, would be 'less honourable' than preparing for all-out war.
'If we do not accept the plan, we must with great certainty count on the intensification of the war and then on the expansion of the war beyond our borders,' he said. 'The other option is less honourable, but just as uncertain.'
According to Mr Karadzic, a 'yes' to the plan could lead to the posting of thousands of hostile troops from the United Nations or Nato in Bosnian Serb territory, the displacement of 400,000 refugees, an insurrection in Kosovo, the ethnic Albanian-populated province of Serbia, an attack by Croatia on its own rebellious Serbs, and the disintegration of what remains of Yugoslavia. The alternative, Mr Karadzic said, was total military victory.
'If we reject the plan we must prepare ourselves to reject all attacks by our enemies, but also to move into enemy territory and in the shortest possible time completely and utterly defeat our foes,' Mr Karadzic told his MPs. 'We must confront air strikes, we must down the largest possible number of planes and take each downed pilot prisoner.'
In Churchillian mode, he continued: 'I can offer you blood, sweat and tears . . . If we reject the plan, we must declare a state of war, convert to a war economy and mobilise the entire people.'
Despite threats from the West and Russia to tighten sanctions on Serbia and extend Nato's role in Bosnia if the Serbs reject the plan, Bosnian Serb MPs were defiant even before the parliamentary session began. 'To accept it is totally unthinkable,' said Miodrag Jordic, a deputy from Doboj. 'The insulting map presented to us by the major powers resembles a burnt-out rag; it is throwing us back to the last century.'
The belligerent rhetoric suggests that the Bosnian Serbs are willing to call the world's bluff, and that pressure to sign from Belgrade - which is eager to see an end to the economic embargo - has diminished in the past week.Reuse content