WASHINGTON - As the Bush administration sought to muster backing for a strike against Iraq in the Security Council, the United Nations moved forward this week toward creating an International Criminal Court - a project that America's allies hope the United States will support over time.
In successive rounds of voting, 85 nations began to elect the 18 judges who will serve on the new court, the first permanent venue for prosecuting cases of genocide and other atrocities when national governments fail to act.
The court will formally open March 11 in The Hague.
American rejection of the court has meant that other nations, led by Germany, France and Britain, will have to pick up a greater part of its costs than U.N. formulas would normally require, and it could damage the court's credibility.
Eight judges have been elected so far this week, with six women and two men named. They come from Ireland, Mali, South Korea, Brazil, Ghana, Costa Rica, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago.
European candidates are expected to dominate in the last round of voting.
The court has been delayed in the crucial task of naming a prosecutor, who will set the agenda for the court.
The Bush administration withdrew its support from the court last year after failing to win what it said were safeguards necessary to protect U.S. troops and officials from prosecution.
Administration officials voiced concerns that the court could become a venue for politicized attacks against the United States and could even result in charges against American policymakers.
The administration is not alone in opposing the court; other holdouts include China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iraq and Turkey. But 137 nations have supported it, and 87 of those have ratified its creation, viewing it as a way to ensure that war criminals anywhere in the world do not go unpunished.
Marie-Christine Lilkoff, a spokeswoman for Canada's Foreign Ministry, said, "International support for the ICC continues to grow, and Canada hopes the U.S. will ultimately join in the process and support the court."