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(E) US - Croatia - ICC
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  05/15/2003 | Politics | Unrated
(E) US - Croatia - ICC

 

US to cut military aid unless Croatia signs accord

14 May 2003 13:24:24 GMT
US to cut military aid unless Croatia signs accord

ZAGREB, May 14 (Reuters) - The United States has threatened to cut off military aid to Croatia unless Zagreb agrees by July 1 not to extradite U.S. citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC), a top foreign ministry official said on Wednesday.

But Croatia, already working with the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal, hopes to join a select group of countries Washington is exempting from signing such accords, Deputy Foreign Minister Ivan Simonovic told Reuters.

The United States, fearing its soldiers overseas could be vulnerable to politically motivated charges at the ICC -- which tries individuals for atrocities, war crimes and major human rights abuses -- wants ICC signatories to sign bilateral immunity agreements.

Washington has already signed such accords with 34 countries and is negotiating with others. NATO member countries, major U.S. non-NATO allies and Taiwan are not being asked to sign up.

"Under the terms of the American Servicemembers Protection Act (ASPA), Croatia could lose $19 million in military equipment and training assistance should it fail to sign the agreement by July 1," the U.S. embassy in Croatia said in a statement.

Simonovic said he hoped the United States would allow Croatia not to sign an agreement.

"I believe the U.S. might consider putting Croatia, and other countries falling under the jurisdiction of the U.N. war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), among those exempt from signing the agreement because of the specific political and legal situation we face," he told Reuters.

Croatia fought to assert its independence in the early 1990s after breaking away from socialist Yugoslavia. The West has put pressure on it to cooperate with the ICTY by handing over senior military officials suspected of responsibility for war crimes against Serb civilians.

Cooperation with the Hague-based tribunal is considered a high priority if Croatia is to gain EU membership. It applied to join in February and hopes to become a member in 2007.

Simonovic said that, given Croatia's position with the ICTY, it was highly unlikely that the Croatian parliament would agree to sign the non-surrender agreement with the United States.

The U.S. embassy said Washington strongly supported Zagreb's efforts to join Euro-Atlantic institutions, especially NATO, and said its military aid focused on supporting that integration.

"Our priority is to work with the Government of Croatia to negotiate a mutually acceptable bilateral non-surrender agreement before July 1 that will keep this important U.S. assistance flowing," the U.S. embassy statement said. 

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