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Unlike last year, when an initial one-year exemption received unanimous Security Council backing at the end of a bitter battle, this year the United States faced opposition from France, Germany, Syria and the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
The final vote was 12-0, with France, Germany and Syria abstaining on grounds that the International Criminal Court provide sufficient safeguards for all peacekeepers and there is no need for a special U.S. exemption. France, a permanent Council member, chose not to use its veto.
Last week, the U.S. warned the E.U. that its criticism over the exemption request was further straining the bitter trans-Atlantic division over the war against Iraq. France and Germany were at the forefront of opposition to the U.S.-led war and strongly support the court.
The court will prosecute cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after July 1, 2002, but will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves. It is the culmination of a campaign for a permanent war crimes tribunal that began with the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
The Clinton administration signed the 1988 Rome Treaty establishing the court, but the Bush administration rescinded the U.S. signature.
The U.S. argues the court could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecution of American troops.
In addition to seeking the U.N. exemption, Washington has also signed bilateral agreements with 37 countries not to prosecute American officials and is seeking more.
After Thursday's vote, U.S. deputy ambassador, James Cunningham, called the court ``a fatally flawed institution'' and made clear that the U.S. will seek to continue the one-year exemptions. He insisted the U.N. resolution adhere to international law.
``We have heard the arguments that this resolution is not necessary, and we do not agree,'' Mr. Cunningham said. ``I would suggest that even one instance of the ICC attempting to exercise jurisdiction over those involved in a U.N. operation would have a seriously damaging impact on future U.N. operations.''
``We are disappointed, of course, that not every Council member shares our view but we are not at all persuaded that our concerns are overstated or lack validity,'' he said. AP
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