UNITED NATIONS -- The United States agreed Sunday to keep the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia going for three more days, shortly after vetoing a six-month extension because American peacekeepers did not get immunity from the new International Criminal Court.
U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte joined in the unanimous vote approving the brief extension to work out the dispute, after earlier going against almost all 14 other members of the powerful council. The 1,500-strong U.N. police training mission in Bosnia had been due to end at midnight Sunday.
The U.S. brinkmanship was clearly aimed at underscoring the Bush administration's opposition to the International Criminal Court, which comes into existence today. It also underlined Washington's willingness to stand against virtually all other council members, including close allies, and to end all U.N. peacekeeping missions if necessary -- not just the Bosnian missions.
Negroponte said he hoped the veto and the brief delay would highlight the importance of the issue to the United States, and he stressed that it wasn't a question of just the Bosnian mission: "It's a question of peacekeeping in general."
The council members -- including Britain and France -- support the new court and argue that a U.S. exemption would undermine the tribunal and international law.
The United States is demanding that American and other peacekeepers from countries that have not ratified the treaty establishing the court be exempt from arrest and prosecution by the tribunal. It has rejected all compromises that don't grant blanket immunity.
The United States says immunity is needed to prevent American troops and citizens from frivolous and political motivated prosecutions. Opponents say there are enough safeguards to prevent such abuse.
In the first vote Sunday, 13 countries favored extending the mandate for Bosnia's U.N. police training mission for six months and authorization for the NATO-led force for a year. Bulgaria, a sponsor of the resolution, abstained to highlight the absence of council unity but said it still supports the court.
NATO said its 18,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia would not be jeopardized by a U.S. veto because its mandate comes from the 1995 Dayton peace agreement that ended the 3 1/2-year war in the Balkan nation. The NATO force, however, includes 3,100 Americans.
Negroponte said the United States voted against the resolution "with great reluctance" but will not ask Americans in U.N. peacekeeping missions "to accept the additional risk of political prosecution before a court whose jurisdiction the government of the United States does not accept.
Immediately after the resolution was defeated, council members returned to closed-door consultations to work on the resolution that would briefly extend the Bosnian mandate. France and Britain proposed an extension until July 15, but the United States would only agree to 72 hours.