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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3-Day Reprieve for UN Mission

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States has backed away, for now, from a vow to kill off the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in a clash with its Security Council colleagues over the powers of the new International Criminal Court.

But U.S. officials renewed a threat to shut down UN-authorized peacekeeping missions, one by one, so long as the council refuses its demand to put U.S. peacekeepers and other officials working overseas beyond the reach of the global war crimes court, which comes into force Monday.

During a three-hour Sunday session, the United States initially vetoed a council resolution extending the Bosnia mission's mandate for six more months, then backed a second resolution keeping the mission alive until midnight Wednesday.

The United States relented after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the council the people of Bosnia were "beginning to reap the fruits of the international community's assistance, after the country was ripped apart by war from 1992-95.

"It would be most unfortunate if the premature termination of [the UN mission's] mandate were to set back this process," Annan said. "The world cannot afford a situation in which the Security Council is deeply divided on such an important issue, which may have implications for all UN peace operations."

But U.S. officials insisted Washington was not caving in on its immunity demand for peacekeepers. They said the three days would give the United Nations time to either plan for the mission's orderly shutdown or perhaps shift its mandate early to the European Union, which had been due to take it over at the end of the year in any case.

"It's not a question of one mission or another, it's a question of peacekeeping in general, and until we reach some sort of satisfactory resolution of this problem, it is going to come up over and over," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte told reporters after the vote.

Thirteen of the council's 15 members -- including Britain, France, Russia and China -- had voted against the United States on the initial resolution to extend the mission, with Bulgaria abstaining. The three-day extension resolution was then approved unanimously.

Negroponte said Washington had vetoed the first resolution "with great regret."

But "with our global responsibilities, we are and will remain a special target, and cannot have our decisions second-guessed by a court whose jurisdiction we do not recognize," he said.

Shuttering the Bosnia mission would be a public relations nightmare for Washington, which was instrumental in bringing to an end the bloody three-year war in Bosnia that spawned the term "ethnic cleansing."

But it could prove popular with Bush's conservative backers, many of whom dislike both the new court and U.S. participation in international peacekeeping operations.

The court was created to pursue heinous wrongdoing such as gross human rights abuses, genocide and war crimes. While it can pursue any crime committed from Monday on, its prosecutor, judges and courtrooms will not be in place in The Hague, Netherlands, until early next year.

Most council members are either among the 74 nations that have already ratified the new court or soon plan to be. They say that binds them to do nothing to undermine the tribunal.

They also argue there are ample safeguards in place to prevent U.S. citizens from frivolous prosecution by the court.

The United States has just 46 police officers in the UN Bosnia mission, which was launched in 1995 to train a professional multiethnic police force.