U.S. wants Security Council to have a say

Washington JULY 3. The Bush administration has reiterated that it will not agree to the terms of the International Criminal Court though it is amenable to resolving the dispute with allies over U.N. peacekeeping operations in Bosnia. "We'll try to work out the impasse at the United Nations. But one thing we're not going to do is to sign on to the International Criminal Court," the President, George W Bush, said.

A compromise solution is being discussed behind closed doors in New York and world capitals with the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, speaking to many Foreign Ministers over the telephone. The United States is apparently calling for the Security Council to have a say on whether peacekeepers can be prosecuted. Under the plan, the Council's five permanent members can use their vetoes to block any investigation or prosecution of peacekeepers by the ICC.

On Sunday, the United States vetoed the renewal of the U.N. Police Training Mission in Bosnia for another six months, but later agreed to a three-day extension. That deadline expires midnight tonight. The Republican administration insists that peacekeepers and civilians involved in peacekeeping operations should be given blanket immunity. Otherwise, the United States is prepared to use its veto to close down U.N. peacekeeping missions as the mandates come up for renewal at the Security Council. "As the United States works to bring peace around the world, our diplomats and our soldiers could be dragged into this court. That's very troubling to me," Mr. Bush said during a visit to Milwaukee.

"President Clinton signed this treaty, but when he signed it he said it should not be submitted to the Senate. It therefore never has been, and I don't intend to submit it either," Mr. Bush said. The former President signed the treaty in the hope that American objections could be resolved before the ICC became a reality. That has not happened yet.

Meanwhile, Washington has pulled out the two U.S. military observers serving in East Timor. Though officially, the Pentagon says that it has nothing to do with the showdown over the ICC, the timing sends a clear message. Further, if no compromise is reached in New York by today, the 64 Americans serving in Bosnia — out of a total U.N. force of 1500 — may be withdrawn as well. Another issue at stake here is the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. U.S. involvement here is not directly jeopardised but the veto of last Sunday cuts United Nations support for the NATO force, which raises the question of continued German participation.

The standoff over the ICC and peacekeeping operations has received mixed response from Capitol Hill. Senior lawmakers such as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden, have said that while Americans should be protected from frivolous prosecution, vetoing peacekeeping mandates was not going to help.

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