- The Washington Times - Friday, July 12, 2002

U.N. Security Council support was in doubt last night for even a scaled-back Bush administration plan to exempt U.S. and some other peacekeepers from the new International Criminal Court for just one year.
"The United States doesn't appear to have the nine necessary votes, but the lobbying efforts continue," a Western diplomat said after the council members adjourned in New York. Some countries sought further modifications of the American text.
Congressional Republicans criticized the draft resolution circulated by the Bush administration on Wednesday, which retreated from Washington's earlier demand for permanent immunity for U.S. soldiers.
One Senate aide called the new language a "setback from what seemed to be a train in motion."
Legislators said the U.S. mission at the United Nations was conducting negotiations with other Security Council members in New York "so closely that other people with legitimate interest have not been involved and a more balanced view has not been taken."
Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, said he was "disappointed by this lack of progress in protecting our men and women in uniform."
The Pentagon and its supporters fear politically motivated prosecutions of U.S. military forces acting abroad.
Aides to several members of Congress said their bosses were too busy with corporate scandals and other domestic issues yesterday to pay much attention to a compromise on the ICC.
Administration officials defended the new proposal, which is substantially weaker than the tough language demanded just a few days earlier, and said they were working with fellow council members "to close any kind of existing gaps."
In a speech on July 2, President Bush vowed resistance. "We'll try to work out the impasse at the United Nations," he said. "But one thing we're not going to do is sign on to the International Criminal Court."
Mr. Bush campaigned on a promise to bring American troops home from Bosnia, where they were first deployed in 1995 by President Clinton, who promised the mission would end within a year.
Last night, however, one U.S. official said: "We believe this text offers the best chance to getting an agreement, and we want the council members to take it seriously."
White House officials insisted that the compromise does not constitute a softening because soldiers and diplomats would have just as much immunity as under the original proposal, although instead of being permanent, the immunity would last one year.
"This is not a reversal," said Sean McCormack, a spokesman for the National Security Council. "This idea that somehow there was a reversal really couldn't be further from the truth. We are working with U.N. Security Council members toward the common goal of allowing peacekeeping to continue and the protection for U.S. and other forces."
During that one-year period, the administration says it will work on a permanent solution and will pursue bilateral agreements with as many nations as possible to block those nations from extraditing any American indicted by the ICC.
"In the course of the coming year, we plan to negotiate as many bilateral agreements as we can," Mr. McCormack said. "We want to fully protect U.S. forces and all peacekeepers."
The treaty creating the ICC, which came into force July 1, permits the Security Council to defer any investigation for 12 months. Washington had been seeking language in a resolution that would make such deferrals automatic for U.N. peacekeepers, including automatic renewals every year.
But under the new proposal, a new vote would be required each year to renew the deferral. The protection would apply to peacekeepers from countries that have not ratified the new court.
Most of the Security Council members harshly criticized the United States after it briefly vetoed a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina and threatened to do the same to other missions as they came up for renewal.
Many of them offered positive views of Washington's scaled-back proposal, meant to avoid a confrontation that would shut down the Bosnia mission on Monday.
British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, this month's council president, told reporters he hoped for a vote today. "We will have to see how it goes, but that is my ambition," he said. Nine positive votes are needed to pass the U.S. resolution.
Norwegian Ambassador Ole Peter Kolby welcomed the new U.S. draft, saying, "There is no blanket immunity. You get a delay for a year." The Irish ambassador, Richard Ryan, was more cautious, warning that "there is work to be done."
Other council members said the new U.S. draft resolution violates the letter and spirit of the court's treaty, signed by 139 countries and ratified by 76.
France, which is expected to abstain, submitted amendments to the U.S. text that ICC supporters say puts it more in line with the 1998 Rome treaty establishing the tribunal.
Paris' proposal said the court should notify the Security Council of any investigation or prosecution of personnel from a country not a party to the ICC, after which council members would make a decision. It appeared unlikely that the United States would accept such a text.
After a meeting between French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell in Washington yesterday, a senior U.S. official said, "They agreed to work from our text." Mr. Powell told reporters at the State Department that he and Mr. de Villepin had both "charged" their U.N. ambassadors "to work closely" with other permanent council members "to see if a way can be found forward, so I wouldn't quite dismiss the prospects for success."
On Capitol Hill, sentiment was less sanguine. "We are heading for a train wreck, and people need to pay more attention to it," one Republican congressional source said. "The issue is not high enough on the radar scope."
He also said the text did not "incorporate" the views of the Pentagon and congressional Republicans.
He noted that a letter sent on Wednesday to Mr. Powell by three Republican senators and one Democratic senator "will hopefully generate some attention." In the letter, Sens. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, John W. Warner and Mr. Allen of Virginia, all Republicans, and Zell Miller of Georgia, the Democrat, argued that nothing less than a permanent exemption for U.S. peacekeepers was satisfactory.
"For the sake of our service members and officials, now and in the future, the [Bosnia] mandate renewal must completely and permanently immunize American peacekeeping personnel from the ICC jurisdiction," they wrote.
"In our view, such a solution would not only fail to provide the comprehensive, permanent solution needed to ensure immunity of Americans involved in all U.N. peacekeeping activities, but would constitute an improper acknowledgement of the court's jurisdiction over American persons."
The Republican Capitol Hill source also said the NSC has been giving Washington's U.N. delegation "bad legal advice that underestimates or minimizes the legal consequences" of the new U.S. proposals.
As an example of unintended consequences in international courts, The Washington Times reported this week that the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia is considering an investigation of former President Bill Clinton for supporting a 1995 Croatian offensive that recaptured territory from rebel Serbs.


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