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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Romania ratifies US military base deal

ISN SECURITY WATCH (Thursday, 22 June 2006: 11.45 CET) – The Romanian Senate has ratified a framework agreement giving the US military access to bases on Romanian territory.

The agreement, ratified on Tuesday, will come into force once Romanian President Traian Basescu signs it.

According to ISN Security Watch staff in Romania, the senators appended a list of non-binding comments to the agreement in response to public criticism regarding Romania's alleged failure to protect national interests when it agreed to the deal in December last year.

One of the conditions calls for the US military to first consult with Bucharest before launching any attacks on third countries using the base in Romania. Earlier, critics claimed that the agreement gave the US military carte blanche to act on its own without consulting Romanian officials.

Romanian senators are also seeking to have legal jurisdiction over the US military while it uses the base. However, in 2001, when Bucharest signed the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), it forfeited its right to prosecute US military personnel for crimes committed on its territory. In August 2002, Romania became one of the first countries to sign an agreement with the US granting US citizens immunity from prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Criticism of the deal stepped up in December 2004, when a US marine killed a Romanian rock star, Teo Peter, in a car crash. The marine was identified as 31-year-old US embassy employee Christopher R. Van Goethem, who refused to have his blood tested for alcohol and was spirited out of Romania shortly after the fatal accident.

In February this year, a US Court Martial in Virginia found Van Goethem not guilty of negligent homicide, but guilty of obstruction of justice and making false statements. He received a reprimand and was set free.

Romania and the US signed the agreement in December last year, with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has described Romanians and Americans as “brothers” during the signing ceremony in Bucharest.

The ratification of the agreement comes amid allegations that Romania is hosting a secret CIA prison on its territory - allegations both US and Romanian officials have denied.
(By ISN Security Watch staff, Romanian news agencies)
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