Cambodia and the United States have signed an agreement preventing the extradition of U.S. citizens for trial at the International Criminal Court. The deal came after U.S. Secretary of State discussed the issue with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Phnom Penh last week.

Cambodia Friday became the latest nation to agree to a bilateral accord preventing U.S. citizens from facing prosecution at the new International Criminal Court.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and U.S. Ambassador Charles Ray signed the agreement at a ceremony in Phnom Penh. It was agreed to last week when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Prime Minister Hun Sen at an Asia-Pacific forum.

At the June 19 bilateral meeting, Mr. Powell asked Hun Sen to sign Article 98 of the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court. The controversial article is being used by the United States to create bilateral agreements that exempt its citizens from extradition to the court.

The ICC is the first permanent international court created to try war crimes. But the United States has not backed the judicial body due to concerns Americans could be subjected to politically motivated prosecution.

More than 30 countries have concluded bilateral deals with Washington invoking Article 98.

Some human rights workers based in Cambodia are surprised the government has supported the United States' request. They are concerned that Cambodia's signing of the deal would undermine the principles of the International Criminal Court by creating a double standard that provide immunity for a privileged few.

Cambodia became one of the first Southeast Asian country to ratify the International Criminal Court treaty in 2002.