BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- The road to peace in Bosnia is littered with the shattered reputations of international figures. But Jimmy Carter, the former U.S. president, has accomplished more in his four days of negotiations with Serbs and Muslims than his predecessors managed after laboring month after month.
But not until the end of this week will Mr. Carter -- or the beleaguered Muslims -- know whether his efforts actually quiet the Balkan war.
The Bosnian Serbs, led by Radovan Karadzic, and the Bosnian Muslims agreed to a four-month cease-fire, to begin tomorrow. But dozens of cease-fires were agreed to in the past, and none was effective.
"We have to wait and see whether this is a real effort, and whether there is the political will to make it happen," said a Western diplomat who declined to be named. "If it holds, we'll have reasons to be hopeful."
Much depends on Dr. Karadzic.
Until Mr. Carter's mission, Dr. Karadzic was successful in the war on the ground but frozen out of the international community. Even Serbia -- his natural ally -- made it more difficult for his army to obtain supplies.
But Mr. Carter -- who traveled to the region at the invitation of the Bosnian Serbs -- lent Dr. Karadzic respectability, and a way to make his military gains permanent.
Mr. Carter offered, in repackaged form, part of the peace plan advanced by the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia: A partition of Bosnia, with 49 percent of the territory for the Bosnian Serbs, 51 percent to be shared between the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats.
Dr. Karadzic's forces now hold 70 percent of that territory. He has stated his willingness to offer "significant" concessions but has never said what they might be.
That peace plan was originally presented by the United States and its allies as a take-it-or-leave-it deal. Every party except the Bosnian Serbs accepted it.
Now, Dr. Karadzic has accepted the plan "as the basis" for new peace talks. He has also agreed to the four-month cease-fire that is scheduled to begin tomorrow.
But this does not offer Mr. Carter a guarantee of success. Dr. Karadzic favors a cease-fire that freezes the war in his favor. The Bosnian Muslims favor a truce so as to have the chance to prepare a new offensive.
"There is a sliver of optimism," another Western diplomat said, "if the cease-fire holds."