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Tense UN considers creating new human rights body

Written by: Staff
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UNITED NATIONS, Mar 15 (Reuters) The creation of a new UN human rights body the United States opposes may be adopted, killed or watered down today in a tense 191-nation General Assembly session.

Assembly President Jan Eliasson, who spent months negotiating a compromise, put the issue on the assembly's agenda for Wednesday in hopes it would be adopted without changes. But negotiations on establishing the Human Rights Council are being conducted until the meeting begins.

UN members want American support for the proposed new Human Rights Council to bolster its international authority. However, Washington believes the body lacks a means to prevent major rights violators from getting a seat and it would be too hard to suspend a major abuser.

In Johannesburg, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he expected the Council to be adopted on Wednesday, despite lack of US support.

''In a normal democratic process, if you get unanimity well and good. But if you can't and an overwhelming majority of the members go for something, you should let it go,'' Annan told reporters after meeting former South African President Nelson Mandela, adding the US would work with the Council.

He said the UN General Assembly had produced a document that gave a credible basis for human rights work.

Many nations, including Canada and members of the European Union, share American misgivings. But they rejected US Ambassador John Bolton's proposal to postpone or renegotiate the council, fearing the final result would doom the entire effort.

The proposed council of 47 members is a watered-down version of reforms submitted by Annan last March.

It is to replace the 53-nation Geneva-based UN Human Rights Commission, which drafted the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights under Eleanor Roosevelt's leadership. In more recent years it has included some of the world's most abysmal rights violators.

MORE REUTERS SHR PM1837

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