U.S. to Cut $15M in Aid to Ecuador.

The United States will withhold $15 million in military aid to Ecuador for not signing an agreement granting U.S. military members immunity from an international court, the U.S.ambassador said.

The move comes after Washington decided last July to freeze military aid to nations that refuse to guarantee that members of the U.S. military would not be handed over to the new International Criminal Court in Belgium [sic!].

``The United States has the democratic right to deny help to nations with which we do not have protection for our military,'' Ambassador Kristie Kenney told daily newspaper El Universo in an interview published Monday.

Despite the loss of military aid, Kenney said that her government has asked the U.S. Congress to approve $70 million for other Ecuadorean programs in 2004.

``Ecuador is in a fragile zone, but it is an island of peace and the entire region is interested in maintaining it as such,'' Kenney said, referring to drug trafficking and leftist insurgency in neighboring Colombia.

In September, the U.S. government sent Ecuador $15.7 million to fight drug trafficking.

The United States froze $48 million in aid to 35 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Central and South America after they failed to meet a July 1 deadline to exempt American troops and other personnel from prosecution before the new court.

The United States fears the court could leave American soldiers subject to false and politically motivated prosecutions. Ninety-two countries have ratified the treaty establishing the court.

[Source: Associated Press, Quito, Ecu, 02Feb04]

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