Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the United States will not withdraw all its forces from peacekeeping missions worldwide because of its objections to the new International Criminal Court, but at least two American peacekeepers are being recalled from the Asia-Pacific region because of the tribunal's creation.
A senior U.S. defense official says the last two U.S. peacekeepers in East Timor have been ordered home. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon on condition of anonymity, the official says the move is being taken despite U.S. support for the ongoing peacekeeping operation in East Timor.
But the official says the United States feels the American peacekeepers could be at risk because of the new tribunal. Despite the risks, the official says the Bush administration will continue to participate in the peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.
The official's comments came shortly after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Bush administration has no plans to pull out of all international missions. "We have forces in countries all over the globe," he said. "We have no intention of pulling back."
But Mr. Rumsfeld made clear the United States will re-evaluate its participation in various peacekeeping missions, both those now under way and future operations. He says the United States is seeking new protections for its peacekeepers against possible prosecution by the new court through bilateral agreements. "What we do have intention of doing," he said, "is making judgments about additional things we go into and trying to arrange those kinds of immunities that will protect our forces before we go in, and second, with respect to places where we already are in, to go around the world and attempt to see that we are provided that kind of bilateral protection, which will be helpful."
Defense officials object to the new international court because they say U.S. forces could be subject to political prosecution. They also complain that the treaty that established the court violates the principle of national sovereignty because it applies to nations that are not parties. The senior Pentagon official calls this "an astonishing and unwelcome innovation" in international law.