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U N rights body to meet Friday on Lebanon

Written by: Staff
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GENEVA, Aug 9 (Reuters) The UNs Human Rights Council will meet in Geneva on Friday at the request of Muslim states to discuss the war in Lebanon and Israel's role there, the world body said today.

A letter calling for the session presented by Tunisia on behalf of 16 nations said the 47-member body should take action ''on the gross human rights violations by Israel in Lebanon'' including ''country-wide targeting of innocent civilians''.

Apart from Muslim states on the council like Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco and Pakistan, the request was also supported by Russia, China and South Africa.

A statement from Israel's mission in Geneva said the request ''intentionally channels the discussion on the situation in Lebanon exclusively'' while ignoring ''countless war crimes'' by the Lebanese Shi'ite Hizbollah militia against Israeli citizens.

Israel launched an assault against targets across Lebanon four weeks ago in a bid to crush Hizbollah after the militia killed eight Israeli soldiers and abducted two more in a cross-border raid. Hizbollah has fired rockets and missiles into Israel.

Since the bloodshed began, at least 1,005 people in Lebanon and 101 Israelis have been killed.

The UN Council, launched in June to replace the widely criticised human rights commission, has no enforcement powers.

It aims to exert moral pressure on countries it deems to be violating UN accords.

Decisions can be approved by majority vote. Neither Israel nor its main backer, the United States, have seats on the Council.

The request for a special session followed a meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in Malaysia last week which was fiercely critical of Israel over its assault.

Such sessions can be called if requested by a minimum of one third of the membership. A special session was also held in July, at which Israel was condemned for attacks in Gaza.

REUTERS LL RN2256

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