- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

The Bush administration, eager to pay delinquent U.S. dues to the United Nations before the president speaks to the world body next month, wants conservative lawmakers to back off a related measure that would protect U.S. military personnel from being tried for war crimes.
The House in May approved an amendment introduced by Majority Whip Tom DeLay to prevent Americans from being prosecuted in the International Criminal Court (ICC), a permanent tribunal being established in The Hague. Lawmakers, including 76 Democrats, tied the provision to payment of U.N. dues in response to the United States' losing its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
The Senate bill, however, which would pay $582 million out of $826 million in delinquent U.N. dues this year, does not include the amendment prohibiting U.S. citizens from being prosecuted in the ICC. With Congress on recess until Sept. 4, time is running out to reconcile the two versions of the bill and give final approval to the dues payments before President Bush addresses the United Nations in late September.
"There are ongoing discussions with administration officials to resolve this," said Sam Stratman, spokesman for House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican. "There is a desire on the part of Chairman Hyde to get this matter resolved expeditiously."
A spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois said Republican leaders have not decided whether to hold up payment of the U.N. dues over the ICC issue. The treaty establishing an international war crimes tribunal was signed by President Clinton three weeks before he left office, and would need to be ratified by the Senate before the United States could become a full-fledged member. Mr. Bush has opposed the treaty.
Hastert spokesman John Feehery said the option of blocking payment of the U.N. dues "has not been decided as a strategy."
State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said yesterday the administration opposes placing any conditions on payment of the U.N. dues in arrears.
"We continue working productively with the Congress to gain release of the $582 million in arrears," Mr. Reeker said. "And the administration does not support the attachment of any additional conditions to the payment of these arrears — for example, linking the U.N. Human Rights Commission issue to the arrears payments."
A senior House Republican aide has expressed optimism that both sides will reach a compromise when Congress returns.
"Nobody wants to embarrass the president," the aide said.
But the issue splitting the administration and House Republican leaders is coming to the fore just as Democrats are criticizing Mr. Bush for ignoring the international community.
A Pew Research Center poll released this week found that respondents in Britain, Germany, France and Italy disapproved of Mr. Bush's handling of foreign affairs by large margins.
Conversely, many conservatives on Capitol Hill say privately that their Republican base is not concerned with the views of U.S. allies in Europe and that such views should not drive U.S. policy.
The amendment introduced by Mr. DeLay, Texas Republican, is called the American Service Members' Protection Act.
It would prohibit U.S. military aid to any non-NATO nation that ratifies the ICC treaty. The House approved it 282-137 as an amendment to the State Department authorization bill.
Opponents of the ICC have expressed concern that enemies of the United States could use the forum as a "political kangaroo court," for instance, to prosecute a U.S. pilot downed over Iraqi airspace while enforcing the no-fly zones.
The senior House aide put some of the blame for the legislative impasse on the Senate, saying its switch in June to Democratic control eliminated any real chance of reaching a compromise quickly with the House.
"Watching the Senate is like watching ham cure," the House staffer said.
Mr. Reeker said the administration is conducting a "high-level" review of the ICC treaty.
"The administration has fundamental concerns regarding that treaty, and among our concerns is that it seeks to exercise jurisdiction over nonparty states," Mr. Reeker said. "We have no intention to submit the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification."

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