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EU backs proposals for new UN rights council

Written by: Staff
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UNITED NATIONS, Mar 2 (Reuters) The European Union backed a draft resolution on a new UN Human Rights Council, after Britain voiced misgivings because of US opposition.

In a statement obtained by Reuters, the 25-member EU yesterday said they considered that the ''draft resolution meets the basic requirements for the establishment of a Human Rights Council.'' ''The EU could therefore accept this text as a compromise,'' the statement said. It added that EU members supported efforts by UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson ''to secure the broadest possible backing for the early establishment of the Human Rights Council.'' Hours earlier, Britain's U.N. ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, told reporters that Europeans, while supporting the draft, also recognized ''that adopting that text without United States support isn't good for human rights and it's not particularly good for the council.'' But one European envoy said the EU statement, which Britain backed, was meant to show the United States it had little support from its closest allies while not closing the door on future changes Eliasson might make.

US Ambassador John Bolton on Monday announced Washington's opposition to the draft resolution and said he would vote ''no'' if Eliasson called a vote. Republican members of the US Congress want to make formation of the council a condition for paying the full US dues to the United Nations.

Bolton proposed new talks among governments. Supporters of the draft, drawn up by Eliasson after months of consultations, say more talks would not improve the resolution but open up line-by-line negotiations to all countries. Cuba, for example, has already submitted its own amendments.

DELAY IN VOTE? Yesterday, Bolton said that after his discussions with other nations, ''I read the predominant view to be to defer consideration for several months.'' ''The predominant sentiment I think today is against reopening negotiations and leaning more toward putting the whole thing off,'' he said.

The new rights council is to replace the discredited Geneva-based Human Rights Commission, where rights violators have protected condemnation of other nations' abuses.

Eliasson, who had hoped for a vote this week, gave few clues about what he would do next but stood firm.

''I have stated several times that I can see grave difficulties with renegotiation, and I can see grave difficulties with changing the text,'' Eliasson said.

''And therefore I would hope that we would come to closure on this before the Human Rights Commission begins,'' he told reporters. The commission is to start its annual six-week session March 13.

Bolton has said he wants to put more difficult conditions for rights violators to gain a seat on the council, such as a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly rather than an absolute majority of 191 members as in the current draft resolution.

''It's an anomaly that it now takes a majority to get on the council under this draft but two-thirds to get kicked off,'' Bolton said.

Diplomats said the United States had also expressed last-minute concerns that Asian and African nations would form a majority in the new council of 47 members.

The proposed text would distribute seats among regions: 13 for Africa, 13 for Asia, 6 for Eastern Europe, 8 for Latin America and the Caribbean and 7 for a bloc of mainly Western countries, including the United States and Canada.

REUTERS DH RAI0759

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