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U.S. Seeking War Court Protection

August 10, 2002

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WASHINGTON AP) _ The State Department is warning foreign governments they could lose U.S. military aid if they fail to promise to protect American peacekeepers from the reach of a new international war crimes court.

Two countries, Romania and Israel, have pledged not to turn over U.S. peacekeepers to the court, which the Bush administration opposes. By contrast, the Netherlands declined, saying it would undermine the authority of the International Criminal Court.

Overseas, U.S. embassies are under instruction to negotiate agreements with foreign governments to shield U.S. peacekeepers by promising not to extradite them to the court for trial.

In Washington, ambassadors from several countries were called to the department over the past two weeks to remind them that President Bush is authorized by law to suspend American assistance _ or to continue the aid if he decides that would be in the best interest of the United States,

The law exempts many of the closest U.S. allies.

``Our concerns about Americans being engulfed in politically charged situations is something we have been quite clear about,″ a State Department spokesman, Philip T. Reeker, said Saturday. ``That’s why we have been negotiating agreements.″

At the same time, he said, the United States was dedicated to protecting human rights and punishing crimes against humanity. ``Our record on that remains unmatched,″ Reeker said.

The court was established to try individuals charged with genocide and other crimes against humanity. The administration says it opposes the court because it could subject Americans to politically motivated prosecution.

Last month, under U.S. pressure, the U.N. Security Council exempted American peacekeepers from prosecution for one year.

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