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UN Concerned About Iran Human Rights

A United Nations committee has expressed serious concern about human rights abuses in Iran. A resolution adopted Friday calls on Tehran to halt practices such as public executions and torture.

The General Assembly committee dealing with human rights issues approved the Canadian-sponsored measure by a 77 to 51 margin, with 46 nations abstaining.

The action came after the committee rejected an Iranian move to block the vote on a procedural motion.

The outcome of the Iranian move had been in doubt until the end. Afteward, Canada's U.N. ambassador, Allan Rock, said that he was gratified by the decision.

"We think the margin reflects the opinion of international community that Iran should be singled out and a strong message should be sent that their human rights record and practices are unacceptable," said Mr. Rock.

During debate on the measure, several countries argued that singling out Iran for censure was evidence of a double standard on human rights, and would stiffen Tehran's resolve to resist international pressure. Ambassador Rock said he worked hard to counter those arguments.

"We appealed to countries by making the case that in the government of Iran, we have an actor that is complicit in the human rights abuses and if only for the sake of the courageous people in Iran who are working against that government, we should encourage those people and reward their courage by expressing our condemnation," he added.

Washington's deputy U.N. ambassador, Anne Patterson, called the narrow margin of approval "too close for comfort". She said the vote makes clear the need for urgent reform of the U.N. human rights machinery.

"It was revealing that countries that spoke in favor of Iran, like Zimbabwe and Venezuela and Cuba, Sudan, other major human rights violators, but we're gratified with the results and we hope the Iranian people get the message that the international community is with them and support free expression and the observance of their human rights," said Ms. Patterson.

Ambassador Patterson expressed hope that the Iranian people would get the message that the international community supports their efforts for free political expression.

"One thing we hope is that they will give encouragement to human rights activists and politicians and even women running for office," she added. "Women were excluded from the last Iranian elections, ruled ineligible, so we hope a resolution like this will show the Iranian people that the international community is aware of this, looks at it and condemns it."

The resolution approved Friday is non-binding and has no legal force. It is likely to come to a vote in the full General Assembly as early as next month, where committee votes are routinely approved.

A similar measure criticizing North Korea's human rights record was adopted a day earlier.