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More Doubts Surface About Future of UN Mission in Bosnia - 2002-07-02

The U.N. Security Council is preparing for an orderly shutdown of the U.N. police mission in Bosnia, having almost abandoned hope that Washington will change its mind in demanding immunity for American peacekeepers from a new global criminal court. The United States vetoed a six-month extension of the Bosnia operation Sunday, then agreed to keep it alive for three more days, while negotiations continued on a way out of the impasse.

With the deadline looming for renewal of the U.N. operation in Bosnia and no sign of flexibility from Washington, U.N. diplomats are scrambling for solutions. No one wants to leave the Bosnians without support, as the country tries to forge an independent, stable police force of its own.

Security Council president, Jeremy Greenstock of Britain, said a possible and likely alternative would be to have the Europeans move in as fast as possible. The European Union was scheduled to take over the mission in December, in any case.

"The general aim would be to make the gap between UNMIBH ceasing its functions on the ground and the EU starting its functions on the ground in the same area as short as possible. It may be a matter of EU acceleration. It may be a matter of UNMIBH delay," he said. "The closer we can come to meeting them middle between those two things, obviously the better."

The British ambassador says the Security Council does not want to see U.N. peacekeeping held hostage to U.S. fears, which legal experts generally insist are unfounded. But unless the Council can work its way through the impasse, Ambassador Greenstock sees more trouble this month for about four U.N. operations that are coming up for renewal, including a long-standing one in Lebanon.

"They really do not want to go through this agony every time a peacekeeping operation comes up," he said. "Obviously, we want the business of peacekeeping of the United Nations to proceed in the normal way without interruption."

U.S. diplomats had hoped the Council would adopt what they refer to as a generic resolution, which would settle the issue once and for all. It would permanently exempt U.S. peacekeepers everywhere from the jurisdiction of the criminal court, not just in Bosnia.

However, the Security Council has resisted that idea. Council diplomats say even a limited exemption for Bosnia undermines the credibility of the new court, which only came into being July 1.

The International Criminal Court was created to try crimes against humanity, including genocide.