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Support Shapes Up for Initial UN Funding

ROME.  The majority of governments participating in the debate over funding for the International Criminal Court (ICC) would like the Court's costs to fall either partly or wholly within the United Nations budgetary system, debates in recent days have made clear.

In both informal and formal meetings here, a clear majority favoured at least initial UN funding of the ICC. Twenty-nine nations, including all 13 member states of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) opted for language stating that "the expenses of the Court shall by borne by the United Nations, subject to the approval of the General Assembly of the United Nations".

Another 21 nations, including more than a dozen African and Middle Eastern states, supported language allowing for the ICC to be funded both by the UN and by assessed contributions from state parties. However, even in that option, the initial Court costs would be paid by the UN budgetary system upon General Assembly approval.

By contrast, only 11 countries favour financing the Court exclusively by contributions from its state parties. The assessed funds camp draws together the United States and Japan, two of the main funders of the UN system, with several countries, including Iraq, Libya and China, that have been generally wary of granting too much power to the Court.

The United States and Japan have also been linked together, sources say, in wanting the contributions for the Court to reflect a "multi-unit class system", similar to that by which the Universal Postal Union is financed, rather than the customary UN scale of assessments.

The UN scale, which is calculated roughly on nations' ability to pay, has required larger contributions from Tokyo and Washington than any other government; the United States in response has demanded unsuccessfully that its UN assessment be reduced from its current level of 25 percent of all regular budget costs (and 31 percent of peacekeeping expenses) to 20 percent over the next several years.

However, both nations are clearly outnumbered in their efforts to prevent the likeliest outcome, which is that the General Assembly would approve a budget for the Court which would in turn be paid according to the standard UN assessment scale.

Another battle, the outcome of which is less easy to predict, concerns whether countries will be allowed to contribute voluntary funding to the ICC. The United States, Denmark and several African nations favour allowing voluntary contributions, but China, Mexico and several Arab states want to make sure that language is in place to guarantee the Court's independence regardless of such contributions. Uruguay, Venezuela, Congo and Guinea want the proposal deleted outright.

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