UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he hopes the United States will not withdraw from peacekeeping operations after its failure to win an exemption from international prosecution for war crimes.
The United States abandoned the effort Wednesday after Annan urged the Security Council not to go along. It was a major retreat for Washington in its fight against the International Criminal Court and a rare intervention by the U.N. chief.
``I think the outcome was a good one for the council, and I think also for the Americans,'' Annan told a news conference on Friday.
The secretary-general had raised ``serious doubts'' about the legality of an exemption and warned against dividing the Security Council. He had said a new exemption ``would be a very unfortunate signal to send at any time _ but particularly at this time.''
Washington argues that the court could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of American troops.
When the court was formally established on July 1, 2002, the United States threatened to end its involvement in far-flung peacekeeping operations established or authorized by the United Nations if it didn't get an exemption for American peacekeepers.
The council approved two one-year exemptions but balked at a third, with many council members objecting because of the Iraqi prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers.
Annan was asked whether he was concerned that the United States might now follow through with the threat and create difficulties for peacekeeping operations.
``I hope everyone will see it as a helpful decision, and I hope the U.S. will not introduce other threats or ... carry out this threat made two years ago to withdraw from peacekeeping operations,'' he said.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters Wednesday that the issue of future peacekeeping operations was still being studied.
Every request will be examined, he said, and a key factor will be ``what the risk might be of prosecution by a court to which we're not party.''
The 94 countries that have ratified the 1998 Rome Treaty creating the court maintain it contains enough safeguards to prevent frivolous prosecutions and insist that nobody should be exempt.
In addition to seeking U.N. exemptions, Washington has signed bilateral agreements with 90 countries that bar any prosecution of American officials by the court for alleged war crimes committed on their soil.
Deputy Ambassador James Cunningham said the United States will continue to seek such agreements to protect its soldiers.
The secretary-general stressed that after previous divisions _ most seriously over the war in Iraq _ the council came together this month and unanimously endorsed the transfer of sovereignty to a new Iraqi interim government on June 30.
``The unity of the council is extremely important. It is not form. It substance,'' Annan said. ``When they are united and they work well together, they have greater impact and their decisions are usually sound.''