- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2003

NEW YORK — The U.N. Security Council yesterday unanimously passed its first-ever resolution to protect relief workers in conflict zones, after several nations bowed to Washington’s insistence that they delete a reference to the new International Criminal Court.

The resolution written by Mexico and co-sponsored by France, Germany, Russia, Bulgaria and Syria originally included a mention of the new tribunal. It also states that the deliberate targeting of humanitarian-aid workers is a war crime, which both the United States and Britain dispute.

Aside from those rancorous issues, however, the resolution is unobjectionable in demanding greater protections for humanitarian personnel. The resolution was passed one week after the devastating bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which killed two dozen civilians and injured scores.

U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte yesterday praised the work of the humanitarian personnel.

But he also stressed in remarks after the vote that the resolution imposes no new legal obligations, “but rather urges concerned parties to implement their existing international legal obligations relating to access, the provision of facilities and the promotion of safety, security and freedom of movement.”

Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser praised the final, if diluted, document yesterday, calling it a “victory” for aid workers and council members.

“A message was sent to those who believe in impunity for acts against aid workers,” said Mr. Zinser. He said it was “of vital importance” to win a unanimous vote, and dropping the ICC language was justified to achieve that.

The resolution calls for the unconditional protection of relief workers in conflict zones, and condemns deliberate attacks on U.N. employees and humanitarian workers, including rape, robbery, harassment, false imprisonment and murder.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez denied the Mexican initiative was a direct challenge to the United States. The International Criminal Court has been ratified by 91 nations, including six Security Council members, but is vehemently opposed by Washington as a potential threat to U.S. sovereignty and the safety of U.S. troops overseas.

The Canal Hotel bombing has generated powerful reverberations within the organization and has also touched off an angry dispute between the Secretariat and the U.N. staff union, which is demanding a full withdrawal from Iraq and an independent investigation into whether there were sufficient security measures in place at the Canal compound.

Many U.N. employees said the new council resolution is long overdue, yet too limited to help them in dangerous conditions.

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