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American Veto Imperils UN Bosnia Mission - 2002-07-01

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged the Security Council to resolve its dispute over the new International Criminal Court, which came into being Monday, or risk undermining United Nations peacekeeping missions. U.N. officials are making contingency plans for a hasty departure from Bosnia, after the United States vetoed a six-month extension of the operation over its failure to get guarantees that American citizens would be exempt from the court's jurisdiction.

The Security Council has until midnight Wednesday, New York time, to satisfy U.S. demands. If it fails, the Bosnia operation will effectively be over, six months before its time. A European police mission was scheduled to take over in December.

U.N. officials have already considered the consequences of a hasty departure. They would have to go to the General Assembly to ask for a budget to end the operation early, which means money to close offices in Bosnia, pack up supplies and move out.

U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard also says contractual obligations tied to the operation would have to be broken, and that would be a big financial loss for the organization. "There would be contracts that would have to be canceled, probably something like a $1 million worth of fines or penalties paid for early cancellation of those contracts," he said. "And people would have to have their contracts terminated earlier than usual to move the police out of the mission, or hurry them into some European-led mission. You will have to ask the European Union what it is prepared to do and how quickly it could move whether it could accelerate its takeover of this mission. But it could be very disruptive, no matter what is done."

Secretary-General Annan has expressed concern about the implications for future U.N. operations, if the United States decides to challenge each one with its reservations about the criminal court. Already diplomats are worried about the U.N. mission in Lebanon, which comes up for renewal this month.

Diplomats concede there appears to be no middle ground to give the United States what it wants. The United States has signaled it will not back off. Its Security Council partners say their options also are limited because they will not take any action that would undermine the credibility of the new court.

The global court, ratified by more than 70 countries so far, was created to try crimes of genocide and gross human rights violations.

Meanwhile, the United States is reported to have withdrawn three of its nationals participating in the U.N. mission in East Timor. However, in New York, American diplomats have insisted that Washington wants to stay involved in U.N. peacekeeping and would find a general pull-out from all operations an unacceptable solution.