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EU Willing to Take Over UN Bosnia Mission - 2002-07-03

The European Union says it is willing to take over the United Nations Bosnia police mission in the event the Americans pull out in a row over the just created international criminal court. Negotiations to avert a crisis are set to expire at midnight Wednesday.

The European Union is scheduled to take charge of the Bosnia peacekeeping mission starting January, but says it will be ready to assume control earlier if need be. The operation involves 1,500 officers from some 40 nations, including 46 from the United States.

Bosnia's international high representative, Paddy Ashdown, says a failure of talks to avert the crisis will make the mission tougher, but not impossible. He spoke after meeting with European Union officials in Brussels.

Washington opposes the new International Criminal Court in The Hague because it fears U.S. forces could be subjected to politically motivated legal wrangles. It also fears American forces would not have the constitutional rights granted to all Americans in criminal proceedings, such as access to evidence.

On Sunday, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution extending the U.N. mission in Bosnia because it failed to give American troops an exemption from prosecution by the new international war crimes tribunal. However, Washington agreed to extend the U.N.'s mandate for a few days to allow time for additional negotiations.

This week Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the United States has no plans to abandon current peacekeeping missions, but he insisted Washington will seek immunity for its troops before sending them on new missions.

In remarks Wednesday, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country holds the EU presidency, expressed great concern over American threats to end participation in U.N. peacekeeping operations. He said it is the responsibility of the international community to ensure stability in the Balkans.