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Last Updated: Friday, 1 August, 2003, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Belgium amends war crimes law
Belgian parliament
The amended law was easily passed by the Belgian parliament

The Belgian Senate has given final approval to a new version of a war crimes law which had led to cases being filed against several world leaders.

The bill was passed by 39 votes in favour to four against and 20 abstentions.

The revised law drops a controversial "universal competence" clause which led to complaints being filed against US President George W Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The lower house of parliament approved the bill amending the controversial law earlier this week.

It now only needs the signature of King Albert II - a formality - to become law.

"Unhappily, the noble cause that prompted the parliament to adopt this law was hit with abuse and manipulated for political ends," Foreign Minister Louis Michel told the Senate before the vote.

Previously, Belgian courts could try anyone for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity, regardless of their nationality and of where the alleged crimes were committed.

The new bill will limit the jurisdiction of the courts to cases only involving Belgian citizens and residents.

The US had threatened to block further funding for Nato's new headquarters in Belgium until the law was withdrawn.

After his re-election in May, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt promised the law would be scrapped.

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