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US Wants UN Resolution Critical of Belarus - 2004-04-14


The United States said Wednesday that passage of a resolution critical of Belarus is among its priorities as the U.N. Human Rights Commission nears several key votes this week in Geneva. U.S. officials say the rights situation in Belarus has worsened since last year.

The United States has been a persistent critic of Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko, who has run the country with an increasingly-authoritarian hand since being elected in 1994.

The resolution the Bush administration is co-sponsoring in Geneva with the European Union expresses concern about the disappearance of three Belarus political dissidents, a fundamentally-flawed electoral process, and restrictions on the practice of religion there.

At a news briefing, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there has been a worsening of conditions since the 53-nation U.N. commission condemned Belarus a year ago. "We think it can send a powerful signal to the government of Belarus to begin meeting international standards," he said. "Unfortunately, Belarus has taken no meaningful steps to implement the recommendations that are contained in the 2003 resolution and the situation has deteriorated. So we would look for a resolution this year that makes that clear."

The United States is also sponsoring a resolution critical of China, saying that that country's rights record has also deteriorated since some incremental progress in 2002. It cited reports of severe prison sentences handed down against individuals seeking to exercise fundamental rights, and legal processes that fall short of international norms for due process and transparency.

Spokesman Boucher said that in the voting in Geneva expected Thursday and Friday, the United States will try to head off a procedural maneuver to shelve the China resolution.

The commission, holding its annual six-week meeting in Geneva, has never passed a resolution against China and moves to sidetrack such resolutions have routinely been successful in recent years.

Mr. Boucher said the United States seeks a strong resolution on Cuba that makes clear what he said is the concern of many countries about the Fidel Castro government's growing abuses of human rights in the past year.

He said the United States plans to oppose a resolution critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians, on grounds the measure is not balanced.

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