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US rejects new UN rights council, wants more talks

By Staff
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United Nations, Feb 28: The United States (US) has rejected a draft resolution for a new United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council and called for new negotiations despite fears from UN officials and others that more talks would sink the proposal.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the current resolution has 'manifold deficiencies' and needed more provisions to keep the worst human rights violators off the new body.

"We are very disappointed with the draft that was produced last Thursday," Bolton told reporters. "We don't think it's acceptable." Several key diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, expect another round of talks on the resolution, aimed at replacing the discredited Geneva-based UN Human Rights Commission where rights-abusing nations have seats.

While the United States has only one vote in the 191-member General Assembly, the diplomats said it was unlikely the resolution would be put to a vote without the support of the world body's largest financial contributor.

Bolton said the United States would vote against the draft unless negotiations were reopened to correct shortcomings.

He said that if UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, who drew up the compromise proposal after months of haggling, insisted on a vote this week, the United States would vote 'no.' Bolton had submitted proposals for a smaller council with restrictions on which nations could become members.

New negotiations could result in a line-by-line debate of the text. Supporters of the resolution, including many Europeans, fear this would open the door to opponents of a new council and produce a deadlock.

Eliasson warned that new talks would not improve the text.

"Reopening the negotiations is not likely to produce a better outcome and that there is nothing to be gained by waiting," his spokeswoman, Pragati Pascale, said.

Other nations, like Egypt, welcomed reopening the talks and getting some concessions from Washington, said Cairo's U.N.

Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz.

Annan wants quick approval: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has admitted the compromise draft fell short of his original proposals unveiled in March 2005. But he again on Monday urged quick approval.

"If we get into line-by-line negotiations, it will lead to major delays and could cause a problem," Annan told reporters in Geneva. "There are enough good elements for all to be able to say that this is not old wine in a new bottle." US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke to Annan about the council during the weekend and to Eliasson yesterday.

A State Department official said in Washington that Rice told Eliasson the United States wanted to support a strong human rights council but that the proposal was not much of an improvement.

A new rights council was a key demand of world leaders at a UN summit in September, with an original draft stronger than Eliasson's compromise resolution. But this was watered down by opponents of the rights council after Bolton submitted hundreds of amendments on a variety of subjects.

Eliasson's resolution would replace the current 53-member human rights commission with a 47-member human rights council that would be elected by an absolute majority of the 191-member General Assembly. Currently members are elected according to regional slates in the 54-nation Economic and Social Council.

Annan, the United States and others had wanted a two-thirds majority to make it easier to keep countries with poor rights records off the new council. Bolton also wanted to exclude nations under UN Security Council sanctions.

Still, outside of the United Nations there was growing support for the draft resolution, including a dozen Nobel Peace Prize laureates and major human rights groups, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

REUTERS

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