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UN Concerned by North Korea Rights Abuses

The measure approved by the General Assembly Human Rights Committee Thursday expresses concern over reports of torture, public executions and severe restrictions on freedom of thought and religion in North Korea.

A total of 82 countries voted in favor of the non-binding resolution, 22 voted against and 62 nations abstained.

Japan, the United States and Canada joined European nations as sponsors of the measure.

South Korea was among those abstaining. The South Korean government had also abstained on three similar measures passed earlier at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

North Korea rejected the resolution. Pyongyang's deputy U.N. Ambassador, Kim Chang Guk, charged that the measure was based on "falsehoods and fabrications". He accused the United States, Japan and the European Union of misusing human rights issues to unfairly criticize small and weak countries.

After the vote, Japan's deputy U.N. Ambassador, Toshiro Ozawa, said the resolution was aimed at pushing Pyongyang to adopt a more cooperative attitude on issues from human rights to bilateral issues.

"We want to see North Korea cooperate with the United Nations system," said Mr. Ozawa.

The Japanese envoy joined the resolution's other sponsors in calling on North Korea, which he referred to by its formal acronym DPRK, to allow access to a special U.N. investigator appointed earlier this year to look into reports of human rights abuses.

"It is very relevant for the DPRK to cooperate with the United Nations system, especially the special rapporteur who has been appointed last July, but has not been able to access the DPRK," he noted

U.N. diplomats Thursday also expressed concern about reports North Korea had responded to the introduction of the human rights resolution by ordering European aid groups to leave the country. Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emir Jones-Parry spoke on behalf of the European Union.

"If they do that, it would be regrettable," he said.

The Pyongyang government has long been accused of torture, public execution and other atrocities. The U.S. State Department issued a report this year saying as many as 200,000 political detainees are believed to be held in North Korean prison camps.

Answering those charges Thursday, Pyongyang's ambassador charged that the United States and Britain were also guilty of human rights violations in Iraq.