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Bush Seeks to End Standoff With International Court, Makes No Concessions - 2002-07-02

President Bush says he wants to end a stand-off over the new International Criminal Court, but he will not back down in a dispute that is threatening U.S. peacekeeping in Bosnia. The newly formed court is designed to prosecute war crimes.

President Bush says the court threatens U.S. sovereignty because American peacekeepers could be tried under laws outside America's control. "As the United States works to bring peace around the world," he said, "our diplomats and/or soldiers could be drug into this court, and that is very troubling to me. We will try to work out the impasse at the United Nations, but one thing we are not going to do is sign-on to the International Criminal Court."

The world's first permanent war crimes tribunal opened Monday in The Hague to try suspects charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Washington's opposition jeopardizes U.S. peacekeeping as the Bush administration is threatening to pull out of U.N. military missions unless its soldiers are exempt from prosecution.

The United States Sunday voted to block the renewal of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia because Security Council members refused to make it immune from the International Criminal Court.

Instead, the Bush administration agreed to a three-day extension of the mission to try and work out a compromise. If the dispute is not resolved by Wednesday, the U.S. military may withdraw the fewer than 50 peacekeepers involved in a police training mission.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer stressed the president is not using the stand-off over the court as an excuse to pull out of Bosnia, saying Mr. Bush "strongly supports Bosnian peacekeeping."

But Mr. Fleischer stressed the international community must realize that the United States will "do what's right" to protect its citizens. He went on to say it is a "vital matter of principle to protect" American peacekeepers. The United States, he added, "has a lot at risk."

Three U.S. observers serving with U.N. peacekeepers in Timor were recalled Monday. A State Department spokesman said he did not know whether U.S. peacekeepers in other countries would also return home.