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Baltic States Reject US Exemption from ICC
Baltic governments said Monday in Riga they would share the European Union's position on an exemption from the justice of the International Criminal Court (ICC) the United States is seeking for its peacekeepers.

Estonian Prime Minister Sim Kallas said that his country was discussing the US quest for immunity, but would consult with the EU before making a decision.

His Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts, Andris Berzins and Algirdas Brazauskas, made similar statements at the trio's joint press conference after talks with government leaders of the Nordicstates in the Latvian capital.

Washington demands that US peacekeepers be exempted from the justice of the ICC, based in The Hague. The request has met with opposition from the EU, which, on Aug.12, also advised its would-be member countries not to sign any such agreement with the US before the 15-nation bloc discusses the issue in September and reaches a final decision.

The EU attitude has provoked discontent from Washington. On Aug.13, a US State Department spokesman said the EU was "seeking to direct candidate country foreign policy choices in advance of EU accession."

Washington is also accused of threatening countries into kow-towing to it by the use of a recent law capable of barring military aid to those who reject its request. However, US Secretary of State Colin Powell has denied the report.

Washington says hostile nations might abuse the ICC's justice in dealing with US peacekeepers. The US Congress approved a year'sexemption for US peacekeepers from prosecution in order to give the government time to seek bilateral accords.

The US request for immunity from ICC justice has been rejected by Canada, Croatia, Yugoslavia, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland. So far, only Israel and Romania have signed accords for US immunity.

(Xinhua News Agency August 20, 2002)

US Backs Down From Immunity Demand
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