Tags: Belgium | Angry | Rumsfeld's | Threat | Move | NATO's | Headquarters

Belgium Angry at Rumsfeld's Threat to Move NATO's Headquarters

Friday, 13 June 2003 12:00 AM

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday said Belgium should revoke legislation giving its courts the power to prosecute foreigners for alleged "war crimes" committed anywhere in the world.

The London Telegraph reported Rumsfeld said Washington had already decided to block funding for NATO's new buildings to protest the harassment of Americans by left-wing Belgian lawyers "trying to score political points."

"Belgium needs to recognize that there are consequences to its actions," Rumsfeld told reporters after raising the issue with NATO defense ministers at a closed-door luncheon. He reiterated that U.S. officials might stop going to Belgium for meetings unless the law is changed.

"If the civilian and military leaders of member states cannot come to Belgium without fear of harassment by Belgian courts enforcing spurious charges by political prosecutors, then it calls into question Belgium's attitude about its responsibilities as a host nation," Rumsfeld said.

One NATO diplomat described Rumsfeld's remarks as "tactless."

Rumsfeld insisted to reporters he was threatening Brussels. He said he respected Belgium's sovereignty even it did not respect that of the United States and its other NATO "allies."

"I've just stated a fact," he said. "Our position is that it does not make sense to build a new headquarters if you could not come here for meetings."

Belgium allows virtually anyone to accuse anyone from any country of "war crimes." On April 14, a member of a communistic party filed a complaint alleging that Gen. Tommy R. Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, committed "war crimes" during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Belgian Defense Minister Andre Flahaut objected, "Within six days, the case was closed." He said he was surprised by Rumsfeld's statement.

The dispute overshadowed the NATO meeting, which was supposed to repair the damage over Iraq and transform NATO from a Cold War dinosaur into a nimble strike force.

Instead of a static alliance built to resist the onslaught of Russian tanks, it will now focus on a 20,000-strong rapid reaction force able to operate worldwide within 30 days, and an elite commando unit ready in just five days.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Thursday said Belgium should revoke legislation giving its courts the power to prosecute foreigners for alleged "war crimes" committed anywhere in the world. The London Telegraph reported Rumsfeld said Washington had already...
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2003-00-13
Friday, 13 June 2003 12:00 AM
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