China said Friday that it will abstain on a resolution exempting U.S. personnel serving in U.N.-approved peacekeeping missions from prosecution before the International Criminal Court, a decision that may leave Washington short of votes to pass the resolution.

"I said to my colleagues we will abstain," Wang Guangya, Beijing's ambassador to the United Nations, told Reuters after a luncheon among the 15 Security Council members and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Wang said earlier that the resolution would send a wrong signal in light of the prisoner-abuse scandal in Iraq.

China's abstention could deprive the Bush administration of the nine "yes" votes required to adopt a resolution. So far Britain, Russia, Angola and the Philippines are considered sure votes in favor.

All other members are contemplating an abstention or are undecided. On Thursday, Annan said the resolution is "wrong" and would "discredit the council."

The United States, for the third year, is seeking to renew a Security Council resolution that exempts from the court's prosecution military and civilian personnel "related to a U.N.-authorized operation," such as that in Iraq. The immunity would extend to all nations not among the 94 that have ratified a treaty establishing the court.