The Bush administration has warned the EU that the US role in NATO will change if the Union refuses the US request for agreements to give Americans immunity from the new International Criminal Court.
The US ambassador for war crimes issue Pierre-Richard Prosper said that if the EU ruled against the US its participation in joint peacekeeping operations would be in doubt. He also said that if countries that were candidates for NATO membership did not sign such an agreement, “it will be an issue that we will have to discuss in the NATO context”.
A confidential legal opinion, drafted by the Commission’s legal services, advises against the US request. The document is reported to conclude that the bilateral agreements proposed by the US are not covered by Article 98 of the ICC treaty. Article 98 exempts countries from extraditing citizens of another country to the court if this would conflict with an existing agreement with that country.
The US-EU rift over the court complicates Washington’s search for allies in a possible action against Iraq. US Vice President Dick Cheney warned that the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would “fairly soon” have nuclear weapons, and would “seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies, directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.” He underlined that the risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action.
The EU members are divided on the prospect of a possible military intervention by the US to oust Saddam Hussein from power. Only British Prime Minister Tony Blair has expressed his support for a US strike, but he has come under serious criticism from within his own party to change his stance.