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U.S., U.N. extend Bosnia mission

U.S. soldier serving in Bosnia
The U.S. makes up 46 of the U.N.'s 1,500-strong police training mission  

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The United States and the United Nations have agreed to a "technical rollover" extending the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia until July 15, officials said Wednesday.

"More time is needed," British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock said, adding discussions on the issues would resume next week.

U.S. diplomats had been working feverishly ahead of a midnight deadline to gain immunity from prosecution for U.S. peacekeepers overseas by the new International Criminal Court.

The United States last Sunday vetoed a six-month U.N. Security Council extension of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, but shortly afterward agreed to a 72-hour extension so a compromise could be worked out.

The U.N.'s 72-hour Bosnia deadline (July 1)

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"If we can delay long enough then the whole issue becomes moot," explained a senior State Department official.

President Bush argues that for U.S. troops to take part in the Bosnian and other U.N. missions, American troops must be granted immunity. (Full story)

Otherwise, Bush contends the court could order the arrest, trial and imprisonment of citizens from the United States and other countries that have not agreed to the its creation.

"It was clear that we weren't going to be able to reach agreement on a resolution regarding the International Criminal Court by midnight," U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte said.

He said the United States has been waging an "uphill fight" in gaining understanding from other delegations of its viewpoint, but it has made progress.

"No one has really slammed the door shut on our proposals, and it was on that basis that we came to the conclusion that we should allow for the opportunity for these discussions to continue next week," Negroponte said.

The U.S. makes up 46 of the 1,500-strong U.N. police training mission which coaches 17,000 domestic officers. But it also has 3,100 soldiers serving with the NATO-led 18,000-strong international peacekeeping force, SFOR. (Full Story)

Tactical delay

Now with almost two more weeks to try to resolve the impasse, U.S. officials said their strategy is to delay the mission long enough for the Europeans to take over the Bosnian mission entirely.

Initially the Europeans had planned to take over at year's end, but the United States is urging its allies to accelerate assuming command.

Bush has said he's also concerned Americans could be prosecuted for political reasons, and that peacekeepers could be vulnerable to court action once they leave the jurisdiction to which they are assigned.

"Our concern applies, as we have said ... to both the military -- peacekeeping elements in the military -- as well as to civilians, which, of course, could include diplomats," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

"This court can do pretty much what this court seeks to do in an extra-territorial matter that would put Americans at risk of being tried by a court that is not accountable to our laws," he said.

It's unclear when this debate will resume following the July 4 holiday.


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