- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 29, 2002

NEW YORK U.S. diplomats yesterday rejected a European compromise and threatened to end the U.N. civilian mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina unless the Security Council agrees to exempt peacekeepers from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court.
The council's 14 other members continued to oppose the exemption last night, and scheduled more discussions for tomorrow evening in the shadow of the midnight deadline to extend the Bosnian mission.
"They are asking us to choose between peacekeeping and the court, and we're not prepared to do that politically or legally," said one Western envoy after yesterday's closed-door meetings.
American diplomats here and in embassies around the world are lobbying governments to exempt peacekeepers and personnel in council-endorsed military operations from the jurisdiction of the war-crimes court, which enters into force on Monday.
"Our concerns are still there, they haven't been addressed," Deputy U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said yesterday evening, adding that Washington would not agree to simply roll over the mandate without new protections.
Washington rejected a French proposal, which would have extended the Bosnian force by another week or two, saying that time would not help solve a political problem.
"We feel for the first time that they are hearing our concerns," a U.S. officials told reporters yesterday, explaining why it was necessary to force to standoff on the Bosnian mission. Forty-six American personnel participate in that effort, most of them police officers.
Council envoys stressed last night that it was vital to negotiate a compromise that neither nullifies the nascent ICC, nor prematurely ends the 3,500-member U.N. Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, called UNMIBH.
"We don't want to see a train wreck, with the U.S. on one track and the 14 others on another," said one council envoy. "There would be an explosion, a collision of peacekeeping and international law."
U.N. peacekeeping and legal officials fear that Washington will demand the exemption language or end each of 15 peacekeeping missions as they come up for renewal.
"Our concerns are serious," said Jean-Marie Guehenno, the undersecretary-general for peacekeeping, who met with council members yesterday afternoon.
U.N. legal official Hans Corell, who also addressed the council, declined to comment yesterday.
Diplomats said yesterday they assumed that NATO's 18,000-member Stabilization Force, Sfor, would be largely unaffected by a council decision, but they weren't clear on all the ramifications. Sfor's legal basis is the Dayton peace accords, but it has been endorsed by the Security Council.
However, some Sfor contributors, such as Germany, have said they are uncomfortable participating in an operation that has not been sanctioned by the council.
The Bosnian mission has become the final hope for U.S. diplomats desperate to protect U.S. troops and officials from the reach of the world court, which they fear could try American soldiers on frivolous or politically motivated charges.

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