UN rights panel rebukes Myanmar, Iran, North Korea

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UNITED NATIONS, Nov 21 (Reuters) A United Nations panel has rebuked Myanmar, Iran and North Korea for human rights abuses, overcoming objections by developing nations that the move amounted to ''demonization'' of some states.

The resolution on North Korea expressing concern about systematic and widespread rights violations won the strongest support in the UN General Assembly's human rights committee, passing by 97-23, with 60 abstentions.

Another resolution strongly condemning the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was passed by 88-24, with 66 abstentions, in what Britain said was ''a declaration of support for the Burmese people's desire for change.'' A third vote expressing deep concern at rights violations in Iran was passed by 72-50, with 55 abstentions.

The non-binding resolutions will be sent to the 192-member General Assembly, which generally votes in the same way as the committee.

The representative from Uganda was among several members of the Non-Aligned Movement, which groups 115 mostly developing nations, who argued against singling out some states.

He said such issues were best left to the UN's Human Rights Council and should be addressed through dialogue rather than what he called the ''demonization'' of some countries.

Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee condemned the resolutions as ''manipulation and abuse of the United Nations human rights mechanism,'' and slammed Canada, which introduced the resolution on Iran, over its own rights record.

He accused Canada of discriminatory policies against minorities, immigrants and indigenous peoples. He also criticized the United States for abuses at Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq and at the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

''In Iran's view, human rights cannot be claimed to be a monopoly of any single culture and society,'' Khazaee said in a speech to the committee.

Western countries welcomed the votes.

''These resolutions send a strong signal from the international community to the governments of those countries that their failure to uphold the rights and fundamental freedoms of their citizens is unacceptable, and must end,'' said British Ambassador John Sawers.

The committee is expected to vote on a similar resolution on human rights in Belarus today.

REUTERS DKS BST0735

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