UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan and key UN Security Council members intensified opposition to a US draft resolution that would renew the exemption of US soldiers from international prosecution.
Consequently, the administration of US President George W. Bush on Friday still lacked the required nine votes to renew the measure, which would give US troops immunity from the new International Criminal Court. The previous resolution expires on June 30.
The court is the first permanent international tribunal to try cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
"We're going to be coming back to the council by Tuesday with a final plan -- with our position in terms of next steps," US representative Stuart Holliday said.
The resolution was first approved in 2002 after the US vetoed a UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia, and threatened to oppose others, one by one.
The immunity would be extended to all nations not among the 94 countries that have ratified a treaty establishing the court, set up to prosecute the world's worst atrocities -- genocide, mass war crimes and systematic human rights abuses.
But this year the abuse by US troops of prisoners in Iraq is largely responsible for opposition among the 15 council members, diplomats said. The court steps in only when a nation refuses to or cannot carry out its own probe, making it highly unlikely US citizens would ever appear before the tribunal.
No council member is expected to veto the resolution but a significant number of abstentions would kill the measure.
China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya (
The only sure "yes" votes at the moment come from Britain, Russia, Angola, the Philippines and the US. Pakistan and Algeria were undecided, council sources said.
Annan appealed for the second consecutive day to council members to oppose the resolution, distributing a memo at their monthly luncheon on Friday. He said the measure undermined international law and sent an "unfortunate signal any time -- but particularly at this time."
The memo "strongly urges the council not to renew this measure."
After the lunch, Annan said the resolution would shatter the unity achieved in the council when it last week endorsed a new interim Iraqi government and a US-led multinational force. He noted the council was "hopelessly divided" last year, refusing to authorize the war in Iraq. "We have some very difficult challenges ahead of us, and the council needs to be able to work together and to speak with one voice," Annan said.
"Everybody was excited that the last resolution [on Iraq] was voted unanimously," he said.
"And I posed the question: If we want the council to be divided by this issue of the ICC -- because it will divide the council."