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U.N. Extends Bosnia Missions

Policy: The mandate will last 12 more days. Dispute on exempting Americans from a global court is unresolved.

July 04, 2002|WILLIAM ORME | TIMES STAFF WRITER

UNITED NATIONS — Averting a midnight shutdown of U.N. missions in Bosnia but continuing a broader dispute between the U.S. and its European allies over a new international court, the Security Council voted late Wednesday to extend peacekeeping operations in the Balkan nation for 12 more days.

The decision came after the council members failed to reach agreement on U.S. proposals to exempt American peacekeepers--and possibly all peacekeepers--from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, which became operational this week.

The U.S. had insisted going into Wednesday's negotiations that it would veto an extension of the missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina if its soldiers were not shielded from the court's reach. But Washington later backed down and agreed to allow time for more talks.

Without the last-minute extension, the legal mandate for the two peacekeeping missions in Bosnia would have expired at midnight EDT, following a U.S. refusal to vote to renew it unless the council added provisions protecting peacekeepers there from prosecution before the global tribunal. As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the U.S. holds veto power.

Unlike most such missions, the Bosnia efforts have a built-in safety net in the event of their U.N. abandonment: NATO is already leading the 18,000-strong peacekeeping force there, which includes about 3,000 U.S. troops, and says it would continue to do so without an endorsement by the world body. And the European Union was preparing to take over management of a 1,600-member police training program, which includes 46 American civilians.

But without a solution to the more fundamental conflict, which pits the Bush administration against its European allies, peacekeeping operations scheduled for renewal this month in other nations will prompt identical battles, U.S. and European diplomats agreed.

The United States has threatened to veto even those peacekeeping missions in which no American personnel are deployed unless the U.N. grants protection from prosecution for U.S. forces now and in the future.

The Bush administration maintains that American peacekeepers could face politically motivated or malicious prosecutions at the hands of the court, given the United States' role as the only remaining superpower.

Negotiations during the last four days have failed to close the gap between Washington's demand for immunity for U.S. soldiers and the stance of officials abroad, and the mood among council members here could be described as cautiously pessimistic.

Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's representative to the United Nations and the current council president, said after another full day of discussions Wednesday that there had been "no momentum toward a substantive resolution" of the dispute.

U.S. Ambassador John D. Negroponte acknowledged that "it has been an uphill fight" for the United States here this week and declined to predict that the Bush administration's view would prevail.

On Tuesday night, U.S. diplomats circulated a proposed resolution affecting not just Bosnia but all U.N. peacekeeping missions, with some American officials privately predicting support from Bulgaria, China, Syria, Russia and Mauritius--countries not normally in the inner circle of support for U.S. initiatives.

The draft resolution in effect would have granted all present, former and future U.S. peacekeepers protection in perpetuity from the international court by mandating a binding, annually renewed 12-month exemption to the treaty for nations, like the U.S., that had not signed the pact.

Human rights lobbyists campaigning against the U.S. proposal feared that Washington was close to the requisite nine-member council majority. Neither Britain nor France would veto an American-sponsored resolution with such wide support, European diplomats said.

Yet as discussions began Wednesday, the U.S. proposal was roundly condemned inside and outside council chambers as an attempt to amend by fiat an international treaty ratified by 76 nations and now in legal force. Only China spoke positively of the U.S. initiative, other council members said.

The U.S. delegation proposed some minor changes to the text, to mixed response, while the French and British suggested alternative resolutions invoking protections contained within the court treaty, which U.S. officials had already rejected as insufficient.

Unable to break the impasse, the council adjourned for the four-day Fourth of July holiday.

"No one has really slammed the door shut on our proposals," Negroponte said, "and it was on that basis that we agreed to continue these discussions next week."

Negroponte declined to comment on an unexpectedly caustic letter from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, copies of which were given to council members before the afternoon's deliberations here.

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