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UN Approves Short Extension of Bosnian Peacekeeping Mission - 2002-06-30

The United States vetoed a resolution to renew the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, in a special Security Council meeting Sunday. But the U.N. mission, which was to expire at midnight New York Time, was extended for 72 hours, to give time to reach a compromise.

The United States wants the Security Council to make U.S. peacekeeping troops immune from the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction goes into effect at midnight New York Time, the same time the mandate of the Bosnian mission had been set to expire.

A week of intensive negotiations failed to change the United States' position that it will not allow its peacekeepers to be come under the jurisdiction of the new court.

The Court is set up to try war criminals guilty of genocide and gross human rights violations who are not prosecuted by their own national governments. But the United States wants a resolution granting immunity to U.N. peacekeepers. U.S. troops are members of the Bosnian peacekeeping mission and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, says the United States remains firmly committed to Bosnia. But he says U.S. troops are special targets because of the United States' global role.

"Contributing personnel to peacekeeping efforts demonstrates a commitment to international peace and security that, as you all know, can involve hardship and danger to those involved in peacekeeping," he said. "Having accepted these risks by exposing people to dangerous and difficult situations in the service of promoting peace and stability, we will not ask them to accept the additional risk of politicized prosecutions before a court whose jurisdiction over our people the government of the United States does not accept."

Supporters of the Court suggest that the United States simply pull its troops out of peacekeeping missions. But the United States insists it wants to remain involved in peacekeeping missions.

The U.N. mission in Bosnia was scheduled to expire in another six months, when peacekeepers were supposed to pull out and turn over responsibility to a European Union police mission.

Speaking to members of the Security Council, U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that an abrupt departure of peacekeepers may damage the fragile peace in Bosnia.

"Unless an agreement can be reached on an orderly wind down of the mission, the police on Bosnia Herzegovina will be left unmonitored, unguided and unassisted," he said.

In prolonging the Bosnian mandate for another 72 hours, diplomats said they did not want to leave a vacuum while the issue was still being debated.

Thirteen members of the Security Council had voted in favor of the resolution that was vetoed by the United States. Bulgaria's representative said his nation supported the resolution but abstained to appeal for a compromise.