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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Seeks Compromise Over Court

UNITED NATIONS -- Under severe criticism from some of its closest allies for demanding immunity for American peacekeepers from the new International Criminal Court, the United States offered a compromise Wednesday that would safeguard its troops and officials from prosecution for one year.

The proposal offered the first tangible prospect for the resolution of a dispute that has generated unusually fierce and united international criticism of the Bush administration. Among the sharpest critics in Wednesday's debate were the United States' two immediate neighbors, Canada and Mexico.

The new American proposal marked a considerable retreat from the letter and spirit of earlier American drafts, which demanded blanket immunity for UN peacekeepers.

The new document makes no mention of immunity. It proposes that the new court not investigate or prosecute officials or personnel of UN missions for a year, after which the Security Council would vote to renew the arrangement.

The British ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said the resolution was "a very fair basis for discussions," which will continue Thursday morning.

But several member nations reportedly continued to question the propriety of allowing the Security Council to tamper with the treaty that established the court, and it remained far from certain whether the United States would find the nine votes needed for passage in the 15-member Security Council.

The immediate issue was Washington's demand that peacekeeping forces in Bosnia be exempt from prosecution by the International Criminal Court, which came into existence on July 1. The court is held in disdain by American conservatives as an infringement on national sovereignty, and Washington refused to renew the UN mandate for the forces in Bosnia unless it included the exemption.

The demand, however, touched a nerve among Europeans and others who saw it as another attempt by the United States to set itself above the rest of the world. As passions grew, the council approved two brief extensions of the Bosnia mission, which now expires Monday.

"At stake today are entirely different issues that raise questions whether all people are equal and accountable before the law,'' said Paul Heinbecker, the ambassador of Canada, who had requested Wednesday's public session of the Security Council to allow countries that are not members of the council to air their views.

"We have just emerged from a century that witnessed the evils of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Idi Amin, and the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia,'' Heinbecker said. "Surely we have all learned the fundamental lesson of this bloodiest of centuries, which is that impunity from prosecution for grievous crimes must end."