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Cuba to Allow UN Human Rights Monitoring

Cuba says it will allow U.N. monitoring of its human rights starting in 2009, as authorities broke up a small protest by dissidents calling for improved human rights on the communist-run island.

Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque announced Monday in Havana that Cuba will allow periodic monitoring by the U.N. Human Rights Council, which was created last year.

The Council replaced the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which Havana said was influenced by the United States.

Perez Roque also said Cuba will sign the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and a similar pact on economic, social and cultural rights, in the first quarter of next year. The comments were made on International Human Rights Day.

As he spoke at a news conference, dissidents demonstrated nearby. Counter-protesters interrupted the demonstration by voicing support for ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro. There were no reports of injuries.

The 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission was disbanded last year after repeated complaints from human rights groups that member countries with poor human rights records were collaborating to block effective U.N. action.

The United States voted against forming the new Council and is not a member. U.S. diplomats have objected to the presence of nations it accuses of abusing their citizens' human rights.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.