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EU May Seek Pact With U.S. on Court

September 01, 2002|From Associated Press

HELSINGOER, Denmark — The European Union showed a new willingness Saturday to compromise on U.S. demands that it exempt Americans from prosecutions at the international court on war crimes.

Italy and Britain have already indicated that they are ready to break ranks with their EU partners and sign bilateral deals granting Washington's wish.

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said he will seek an EU-wide accord by Sept. 30 to grant Americans immunity before the International Criminal Court in any cases related to peacekeeping operations.

The Bush administration is concerned that Americans--politicians and members of the military--could become targets of politically motivated trials. It has said sparing Americans that fate could be done under Article 98 of the International Criminal Court charter, which deals with stationing troops in foreign nations.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he would await the outcome of Moeller's efforts. Earlier, Berlusconi, a staunch Bush ally, had said Washington's request was a bilateral issue.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw would not confirm reports that his government was ready to sign an exemption with Washington. But a British diplomat said the ICC charter "provides an avenue" for such exemptions.

Legal experts of the 15 EU nations will meet Wednesday. The legal advisors at the EU Commission have already said that exempting Americans from war crimes prosecutions would not be legal under the ICC treaty.

Ending a two-day meeting, the 15 EU foreign ministers also condemned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for flouting the international community's long-standing demand that Baghdad readmit U.N. weapons inspectors.

Wary of Washington's talk of war, the EU foreign ministers said it was up to the United Nations Security Council--not the Pentagon--to force Hussein to comply.

Moeller also said he will tour the Middle East this month with a peace plan designed to lead to an independent Palestinian state by 2005. The first phase deals with stopping the Israeli-Palestinian violence, the second with setting up temporary borders and the third with settling the three largest obstacles: Jerusalem's status, the return of Palestinian refugees and definitive borders.

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