Subject: WT: Count U.S. out in East Timor peacekeeping

The Washington Times June 24, 2002, Monday, Final Edition

Count U.S. out By Betsy Pisik, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The International Criminal Court does not enter into force until July 1, but Washington has already begun re-evaluating which U.N. peacekeeping missions are worth the risk that American troops could be held accountable to a supernational tribunal.

The first to go is East Timor. The Pentagon has decided to withdraw nearly 80 Americans from the U.N. mission there, saying that it's not worth exposing three military observers and 75 civilian police officers to the possibility of prosecution by the world court.

The United States tried to get a blanket exemption from foreign prosecution for all of the mission's troop-contributing nations when the mandate was renewed three weeks ago, but Security Council members refused to go along.

Many foreign diplomats and legal experts say the standard U.N. agreement with troop contributors - which sends peacekeepers accused of wrongdoing home for investigation and trial in their own countries - is sufficient protection.

But Washington wants a clearly worded policy with the weight of the Security Council behind it.

"I can tell you that, absent a response to our concerns, we will withdraw our personnel from East Timor," Marshall Billingslea, the deputy undersecretary of defense for negotiations policy, said Friday. "The ICC raises costs on a cost-benefit analysis."

A peacekeeping official said last week that the loss of the Americans wouldn't compromise the mission, but it would be nice to have the broadest possible involvement in international efforts. In fact, the United Nations is chronically short of civilian police, and losing a U.S. police presence could be a painful blow.

The Bush administration, meanwhile, has been trying to win similar language to exempt all foreign troops in Bosnia, with similar resistance.

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