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General News of Wednesday, 2 July 2003


US stops aid to 32 countries - Ghana Exempted

Washington - The United States on Tuesday suspended military assistance to at least 32 countries that currently receive such aid, including allies like Colombia and South Africa, the Baltics and Nato hopefuls Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia and Slovenia. However, Ghana will continue receiving military assistance.

The suspension is a result of the nations' failure thus far or flat out refusal to sign agreements with the United States giving US citizens immunity from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Under US law, most of the 90 countries that have signed and ratified the Treaty of Rome, which created the ICC, faced the sanctions starting July 1. Nato members as well as the nine US-designated "major non-Nato allies" were exempted, according to the provisions of the American Service Members Protection Act.

US President George W Bush on Tuesday exempted 22 other nations because they had signed the immunity deals or because it was in the US national interest.

The White House released a presidential memorandum listing the exemptees as Afghanistan, Albania, Bolivia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Botswana, Djibouti, Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Honduras, Macedonia, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nigeria, Panama, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tajikistan and Uganda.

Countries not appearing on the waiver list that receive US military assistance and have ratified the Rome treaty are subject to the aid suspension, officials said.

The White House did not release the names of the countries affected by the sanctions, but there are at least 31 nations that qualify for them, according to a comparison of Bush's exemption list, US budget figures and the UN's record of Rome treaty ratifiers.

Moving target

Those nations include: Belize, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Estonia, Fiji, Latvia, Lesotho, Lithuania, Malawi, Mali, Malta, Namibia, Niger, Paraguay, Peru, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Zambia.

The exact amount of the aid to be withheld was not immediately clear as the suspension affects only budgeted US assistance for fiscal 2003 that has not yet been spent. The US government's fiscal year ends on October 1.

And, the officials said an exact determination of the countries facing the sanctions is difficult because some of those not receiving exemptions may get them in the near future if they conclude an immunity deal, known as an "Article 98 agreement".

"It's really a moving target," one State Department official said. "Some countries may get an exemption because they sign an Article 98 in the coming weeks and months.

"Others may have their aid suspended if they go ahead an ratify the Rome treaty without signing an Article 98," the official said.