- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 4, 2002

NEW YORK The Bush administration yesterday backed down from threats to end the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, with top officials saying the operation would continue despite unmet demands that American soldiers be given immunity from a new world court.
"From the U.S. perspective, nothing is going to happen," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"It's in together, out together," Gen. Myers told reporters in Brussels.
In Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, "We will not abandon Bosnia."
Hours later, after a day of closed-door negotiations in the U.N. Security Council, the United States agreed to extend by 12 days a U.N. police-training program in Bosnia that was to have ended at midnight.
The council voted unanimously to continue the program and keep negotiating over a demand that American peacekeepers be protected from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court.
The extension was logical "under the circumstances and given the discussions so far," said U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte. "No one has slammed the door on our proposals. It's been an uphill fight in gaining acceptance of positions we have been putting forward."
Washington had said it would block any extension of the Bosnia mission if the Security Council did not address fears that American peacekeepers could be arrested and prosecuted by the court for political reasons or on trumped-up charges.
"As the United States works to bring peace around the world, our diplomats and our soldiers could be drug into this court," President Bush said during a visit to Milwaukee on Tuesday.
U.S. officials had said they were considering scuttling a dozen U.N. peacekeeping missions when they come up for renewal.
During negotiations in New York, U.S. officials have also warned that failure to resolve the dispute could prompt Congress to re-evaluate the United States' 27 percent contribution to the U.N. peacekeeping budget from the United States.
Sixty-four unarmed American police officers serve in a U.N. mission to train a Bosnian police force.
An additional 3,000 American soldiers are serving with NATO's Stabilization Force, or Sfor. They would not be would not be immediately affected by the council's actions.
But because the NATO force is endorsed by the United Nations, the immunity from ICC prosecution sought by Washington would apply.
Yesterday's reprieve was the second time the Americans agreed to extend the Bosnian police mission.
On Sunday, the United States vetoed a routine extension of the 6-year-old mission after council members refused to shield participants in any U.N.-authorized or U.N.-endorsed military operation from the ICC.
However, U.S. officials gave the mission a three-day reprieve that expired at the end of yesterday.
The Americans spent most of yesterday lobbying Security Council members to grant U.S. peacekeepers immunity from the International Criminal Court, which came into existence Monday.
Specifically, the United States sought a 12-month deferral of investigations against individuals from nations that have not endorsed the ICC an deferral that would be automatically renewed every July.
The United States has signed but has refused to ratify the 1998 Rome Treaty creating the court.
Soldiers from nations that have accepted the ICC treaty are already exempt from court jurisdiction while serving as U.N. peacekeepers.
Twelve of the 15 council members rejected the U.S. proposal, saying it would undermine the ICC.
But last night, U.S. officials said that they have the support of at least three other nations China, Russia and Bulgaria and that at least four others have indicated they are open to some sort of immunity.
Nearly 140 nations have signed the treaty creating the ICC, including 74 that have ratified it.
All 15 EU nations have ratified the treaty.
"The EU is wholeheartedly and unreservedly a supporter of the establishment of the International Criminal Court," said Chris Patten, the EU commissioner for foreign affairs.
"We are sorry that despite the amendments made during negotiation of the Rome Treaty, the U.S. has walked away from the ICC," he said yesterday in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
The Bush administration, under pressure from the Pentagon and conservatives in Congress, in April renounced President Clinton's decision to sign the ICC treaty.
Since then, the administration has worked to limit the treaty's scope.
The court was created to prosecute genocide and other crimes against humanity.


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