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U.S. to Nullify Signature on Treaty Establishing World Criminal Court

By William Orme

Unilateralism is back -- or at least that’s what critics of two new Bush administration initiatives here contend.

On Monday, the administration informed the United Nations that it is nullifying the December 2000 U.S. signature on the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, a decision that U.N. officials called unprecedented.

Libya is the only other country that remains consistently and vociferously antagonistic to the court’s creation. Although other nations have expressed opposition to aspects of the court -- among them China, Israel, Iraq, Libya, Qatar and Yemen -- they have not joined the United States in repudiating the treaty.

The administration contends that the court could expose U.S. soldiers and officials abroad to politically motivated “war crimes” prosecutions.

“We regret that this has happened, as we are in favor of the universality of the treaty,” said George Cunningham, a spokesman for the European Commission here.

The treaty originally was signed by 139 countries, the United States included, and has been ratified by 66 -- including every European Union member except Greece, which plans to approve it soon.

No other nation has ever voided a sovereign signature on a binding international treaty, according to U.N. officials and international law experts. “This action by the U.S. is unique,” said Fred Eckhard, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. “It is unprecedented.”

Also Monday, Bush administration envoys were at U.N. headquarters seeking to remove all references to “reproductive health services” from a document being drafted for adoption at the U.N. Special Session on Children later this week -- a fight in which it is again opposed by most U.N. members, including all its closest Western allies.

U.S. delegates are urging U.N. members to promote sexual abstinence rather than birth control.