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US Dismayed by Zimbabwe's Election to UN Human Rights Panel

The U.N. Economic and Social Council Wednesday elected 15 countries to the Human Rights Commission. Among the four chosen by the African group was Zimbabwe, whose leader Robert Mugabe is under U.S. and European sanctions.

The selection drew immediate objections from several countries, including the United States, Canada and Australia. Deputy U.S. representative on the Council William Brencick said the United States was perplexed and dismayed by the choice.

"My delegation believes that this candidature is entirely inappropriate. We remain deeply concerned that the Government of Zimbabwe maintains repressive controls on political assembly and the media, harasses civil society groups, and continues to encourage a climate where the opposition fears for its safety," he said.

Zimbabwe's Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku rejected the U.S. criticism, saying "those who live in glass houses should not throw stones". He referred to detainees at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

The United States was among the 14 other countries elected or re-elected to three-year terms on the 53-nation human rights body.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan this year proposed disbanding the commission and replacing it with a smaller human rights council whose members would have to meet strict standards.

In what could be its last meeting this month in Geneva, the commission rebuked four countries - Cuba, Burma, North Korea and Belarus.

In a stinging closing report, U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Louise Arbour scoffed at the commission's lack of action. She said "there is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which the question of human rights violations in any part of the world is answered by a reference to just four states".