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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 19:58 GMT 20:58 UK
US peacekeepers 'to stay in Bosnia'
UN peacekeeper in Bosnia
The US wants blanket immunity for its troops
US peacekeeping troops will stay on in Bosnia, despite a row over the United Nations mission there, both Nato and the US ambassador to Bosnia have said.

A spokesman for Nato said that an emergency meeting of Nato ambassadors on Monday had decided that the thousands of troops serving in the alliance's stabilisation force (S-For) would remain in Bosnia and no contributing country would withdraw its troops.

No delegation, including the United States, has indicated a desire to leave

Nato spokesman Yves Brodeur
The US ambassador in Sarajevo, Clifford Bond, has also stressed his country's commitment to Bosnia.

Nonetheless, a decision by Washington to veto the extension of the United Nations' mandate in Bosnia means the future of 1,500 police officers and logistical staff serving under the UN umbrella remains uncertain.

Although only 46 of the officers are US nationals, the Americans' blocking of the UN mandate's renewal could scupper the entire mission, which is engaged in rebuilding the country's police force.

The Bush administration deployed the veto in protest at the powers of a new global war crimes court.

It says the International Criminal Court could lead to malicious prosecutions of American soldiers on peacekeeping duties.

The security council has been given until the end of Wednesday to find agreement.

Global consequences

Ambassador Bond said the US troops within S-For were there under the mandate of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords - which ended the Balkans conflict - and not as part of the UN mission and therefore were not affected by the security council veto.

"Our strategic commitment to the Balkans and to Bosnia remains strong," he said.

UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia
Established in 1995 to promote regional stability
Includes police officers from 43 countries
Made up of 1,539 officers, 46 from the United States
Led by UN High Representative Paddy Ashdown
Due to relinquish control to an EU mission in 6 months
Nato spokesman Yves Brodeur also emphasised the Nato mission remained unchanged.

"S-For will remain deployed in Bosnia. No delegation, including the United States, has indicated a desire to leave... S-For will continue its work," he said.

Despite these assurances, a question mark still hangs over the United Nations mission and if no solution to the security council impasse is found, the training of a new Bosnian police force will come to an end.

The EU is due to take over the mission in six months' time, but the UN High Representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, said that a US withdrawal would "make a difficult job much more difficult".

He said Bosnia was a "football being pushed about" in the middle of an international dispute. "This is unhelpful but it's not catastrophic," he said.

Bosnia has appealed to the United States to reconsider it decision, fearing that other countries' commitment to Balkans reconstruction would fade if the US pulled out.

In the longer term, continuing disagreement over US soldiers' liability to prosecution by the International Criminal Court could see the US withdraw hundreds of its troops involved in peacekeeping operations under the UN umbrella around the world, including more than 500 in Kosovo.

'Standing firm'

Following the American decision on Sunday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan - who was present for the vote - appealed to council members to intensify efforts to resolve the dispute.

US peacekeepers under UN control
W Sahara 7
Ethiopia & Eritrea 7
E Timor 81
Kosovo 555
Bosnia 46
Georgia 2
Middle East:
Iraq/Kuwait 11 Jerusalem 3
TOTAL: 712
"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," he said.

But White House spokesman Ari Fleischer defended the decision to use the veto.

"This is a very important matter of principle about protecting Americans who uniquely serve around the globe in peacekeeping efforts," he said.

"The world should make no mistake the United States will stand strong to do what's right to protect our citizens".

The International Criminal Court came into being on 1 July and will start its work early next year.

Its aim is to bring to justice those responsible for the worst crimes - genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes - committed anywhere in the world

The BBC's James Robbins
"America is using blocking tactics"
The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"International law is of little interest to America at the moment"
Former UN special rep. to Balkans Carl Bildt
"It would mean the end of virtually all other peace operations in the Balkans"
See also:

01 Jul 02 | Europe
01 Jul 02 | Europe
01 Jul 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | In Depth
06 May 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | Media reports
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