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US links military aid with war crimes
The United States will suspend military
aid to about 35 countries that didn't exempt U.S. troops from prosecution
before the new UN international war crimes tribunal. Among the countries
cut off is Colombia, the main supplier of cocaine and heroin to the United
States, where some assistance for fighting drugs and terrorists could
be in jeopardy.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the military aid cut-offs are
"a reflection of the United States' priorities to protect" its
troops. "These are the people who are able to deliver assistance
to the various states around the world and if delivering aid to those
states endangers America's servicemen and servicewomen, the president's
first priority is with the servicemen and servicewomen," he said.
Overall, about $48 million in aid will be blocked, said State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher.
Congress set a July 1 deadline for most recipients of U.S. military aid
to exempt U.S soldiers and other personnel from prosecution before the
new UN International Criminal Court. President George W. Bush's administration
fears the court could leave U.S. personnel subject to false, politically
Created under a 1998 treaty, the court was established to prosecute genocide,
war crimes and crimes against humanity cases against nationals of countries
unwilling or unable to try the cases themselves.
Former president Bill Clinton's administration signed the treaty but the
Bush administration nullified the signature and has sought a permanent
exemption from prosecutions. Those efforts have been blocked by the European
Union, though the UN Security Council last year gave the United States
a second one-year exemption.
U.S. diplomats have pressed allies to approve bilateral agreements exempting
Americans. Advocates of the court have accused the U.S. administration
of trying to bully weaker countries and undermining an important advance
in human rights.
Under the law approved by Congress last year, at least 27 foreign states
were exempted from the military-aid cut-off, including the 18 other members
of the NATO military alliance and the two largest recipients of military
aid, Israel and Egypt. Bush also could exempt countries if he deemed it
in the U.S. national interest.
The Bush administration did not identify the countries whose aid will
be suspended. Boucher said the list would be provided first to Congress.
The U.S. State Department has identified 44 of the more than 50 countries
that have signed agreements to exempt Americans from prosecution. Not
all of the 44 countries were military aid recipients or are participating
in the court.
The White House identified six countries that received full waivers: Gabon,
Gambia, Mongolia, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Tajikistan. Sixteen more received
waivers until November 1 or January 1 to give them time to complete their
Mongolia, Senegal, Botswana and Nigeria received waivers though the U.S.
State Department had not identified them as signing exemption agreements.
The State Department did not say why they were included.
The aid suspensions are not likely to have a dramatic effect right away.
Not all military assistance programs are affected. Also, with only three
months remaining in the U.S. government fiscal year, most of the money
budgeted for 2004 has already been spent.