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UN Security Council Renews ICC Exemption for US Peacekeepers

The United Nations Security Council has renewed a one-year exemption for U.S. peacekeepers from prosecution by the International Criminal Court. France, Germany and Syria signaled opposition to the measure by abstaining from the vote.

Under the resolution, peacekeepers from countries that have not ratified the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court will be exempt from arrest or trial for one more year.

The Bush administration, which opposes the court, rescinded the U.S. signature of former President Clinton's administration.

The administration fears that U.S. soldiers participating in peacekeeping missions could become targets of politically motivated prosecution.

Following the vote, U.S. Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham elaborated on the U.S. objections to the court, known as the ICC. "The International Criminal Court does not operate in the same democratic and constitutional context, and, therefore, does not have the right to deprive Americans of their freedom. The United States, therefore, has a fundamental objection to the ICC. In our view, it is a fatally flawed institution," he said.

The resolution was adopted by a vote of 12-0, with France, Germany and Syria abstaining. The debate underscored recent divisions in the 15 member Security Council, badly bruised by the rift that preceded the Iraq war, which France and Germany strongly opposed.

European Union members are the chief supporters of the court, established in 1998 to prosecute individuals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Germany's ambassador Gunter Pleuger explained his country's decision to abstain from the vote. "Germany has been a supporter of the International Criminal Court right from the very beginning. And for us, this was a matter of principle. We understand the American concerns," he said. "We feel that these concerns are being met already in the statute of the International Criminal Court, and, therefore, the Security Council resolution should not have been taken, because it is not necessary."

Ninety nations have ratified the treaty creating the International Criminal Court.

During an open debate on the issue, Secretary General Kofi Annan also expressed doubts about the renewal of the exemption.

He said peacekeepers remain under the jurisdiction of their own nations, and the ICC would only prosecute, if a sovereign state fails to take action. Mr. Annan said he hopes the renewal of the resolution does not become "an annual routine." "And if that were to happen, it would undermine not only the authority of the ICC, but also the authority of this council, and the legitimacy of United Nations peacekeeping," he said.

Britain's ambassador, Jeremy Greenstock, also said the resolution should not be automatically renewed, and must be scrutinized annually.