- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 14, 2002

The State Department accused Europe yesterday of putting "inappropriate" pressure on countries seeking EU membership to prevent them from granting U.S. soldiers immunity from the new International Criminal Court.
"Any suggestion that EU candidate countries hold off their decisions until the European Union looks at this that's, in our view, inappropriate," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that in meetings with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacios yesterday, he raised the issue of EU efforts to block agreements that would protect U.S. peacekeepers from the ICC.
"We are having discussions with all of our European Union and other friends around the world," Mr. Powell said.
"But we're not bludgeoning or threatening any of our friends. We're discussing with them our concerns about the ICC and a way of dealing with those concerns through Article 98," he said. Article 98 of the Rome treaty that created the court allows states to sign bilateral agreements granting immunity to other countries' citizens.
On Monday, European Commission President Romano Prodi warned the 12 mainly former Soviet bloc countries seeking EU membership not to sign such treaties with the United States until the European Union discusses the issue, The Washington Times reported yesterday.
Fearing that U.S. peacekeeping troops could be dragged before what Mr. Reeker called the "potentially highly politicized jurisdiction of that court," the Bush administration has sought to negotiate with every country separate bilateral treaties with exempting U.S. peacekeepers from being sent to the court.
Congress has passed a law threatening that any country that does not exempt U.S. troops from the court could lose its military assistance. NATO allies, Japan and countries deemed of national security interest can be exempt from the military cutoffs under the law.
Mr. Reeker said that signing separate treaties through Article 98 was suggested by the European allies at the U.N. Security Council last month.
"We do not intend to undermine the ICC as an institution, but at the same time we hope that all countries will continue to respect our decision not to become a party to the ICC," he said.
Mr. Reeker said he did not believe that European countries have adopted a common policy of opposing separate bilateral exemption agreements with the United States.
Mrs. Palacios told Mr. Powell yesterday that the EU nations are to meet at the end of August to discuss the U.S. efforts to bypass the court and to possibly adopt a common position.
Asked if Spain would sign a treaty exempting U.S. troops from the ICC, she said the issue was not for Spain to decide alone.
"Spain is not just Spain; Spain is also European Union," she said.
"We will be addressing all the concerns" of the United States and the European Union at the EU foreign ministers' meeting by the end of the month, she said.
Mr. Prodi has said he regrets that Romania, one of the would-be EU nations, has already signed a treaty pledging not to send U.S. soldiers to the court. Israel has signed a similar agreement.
Yesterday, Switzerland and India joined a list of nations that say they will not sign the treaties sought by the United States. Yugoslavia said Monday that it would not sign.

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