- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 30, 2003

The United States yesterday introduced a U.N. resolution authorizing the deployment of a multinational force to Liberia and setting the stage for tough negotiations over language granting those forces immunity from the International Criminal Court.

France, Germany and Mexico took issue with the language, which would exempt the peacekeepers from the tribunal’s jurisdiction, but the U.N. Security Council chose not to delay the document’s formal introduction because of it, U.N. diplomats said.

The Bush administration had been working on the measure for weeks but did not share it with other council members until this week. The resolution “would grant authority for peacekeepers to support a cease-fire and to provide a secure environment for humanitarian deliveries,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

Although the document prepares the ground for U.S. participation in the force, it does not specify which countries will take part in the effort, and President Bush said he has yet to make a decision on sending U.S. troops.

“The conditions that I laid out for the Liberian rescue mission still exist: [Liberian President] Charles Taylor must go, a cease-fire must be in place, and we will be there to help ECOWAS,” Mr. Bush said at a news conference, referring to the Economic Community of West African States.

“I also want to remind you: The troop strength will be limited and the time frame will be limited, and we are working on that,” he said.

In Accra, Ghana, Walter Kansteiner, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said yesterday the United States will provide financial backing for the ECOWAS peacekeeping force.

“Financial support has now been made available to ECOWAS and the intervention force, and we have funds to continue to support this force,” Mr. Kansteiner told reporters in Accra after a meeting with Ghana’s president, John Kufuor.

ECOWAS has proposed the urgent deployment of an advance contingent of 1,500 troops from Nigeria, West Africa’s military powerhouse.

But Nigeria had expressed concern over the funding, with senior officials saying the country wanted better guarantees of support from the international community.

The 15-nation ECOWAS has agreed to send 3,000 troops total to help end Liberia’s devastating four-year civil war.

Washington’s draft resolution, which was introduced in the Security Council yesterday afternoon, contains language that guarantees any U.S. troops immunity from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The text says the council “decides that current or former officials or personnel from a contributing state shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that contributing state for all alleged acts or omissions related to the multinational force or U.N. stabilization force in Liberia, unless such exclusive jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the contributing state.”

The administration wanted that paragraph in the document despite an existing Security Council exemption for U.S. soldiers and officials serving in U.N. missions. The protection was first granted in July 2002 and was extended last month for another year.

Administration officials said the language in yesterday’s Liberia resolution did not signal that any deployment might last longer than a year, but was simply intended to reinforce safeguards.

U.N. diplomats said, however, that the immunity text was likely to be changed because several council members are concerned that it would undermine the viability of the court.

The United States is not a member of the ICC, whose Rome statute went into effect a year ago. Fearful that the court might prosecute Americans for political reasons, it has negotiated bilateral agreements with more than 50 countries to exempt U.S. soldiers and officials from the court’s jurisdiction. Liberia is not one of them.

In addition to France, Germany and Mexico, Britain also has reservations about the U.S. language and has raised them privately with the United States, diplomats said.

“We want to make sure that the immunity language is compatible with the ICC statute,” one council diplomat said. “It will probably be adjusted to exclude the states that are parties to the statute. We hope it won’t become a blocking point.”

Of the 15 Security Council members, Britain, France, Bulgaria, Germany, Guinea and Spain are parties to the ICC. The United States, Russia, China, Angola, Chile, Mexico, Cameroon, Pakistan and Syria are not.

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