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US Critical of UN Human Rights Commission - 2002-04-23

The Bush administration is criticizing the U.N. Human Rights Commission for failing to approve resolutions critical of Iran, Zimbabwe and the situation in Chechnya. The United States was excluded from this year's commission session in Geneva for the first time since the founding of the United Nations in 1947.

Officials here are criticizing what they see as the timidity of the rights panel, and vowing more forceful action when the United States makes its expected return to the U.N. body next year.

The United States was voted off the 53-member commission a year ago in a secret ballot that analysts said reflected irritation by some U.S. allies over Bush administration policies on missile defense and global warming, and over U.S. non-payment of dues to the world body.

With the United States left to a behind-the-scenes lobbying role, the U.N. commission did approve a mildly-worded resolution critical of Cuba and a resolution on Sudan that includes a special reporter to monitor conditions there.

But it did not even take up a resolution on rights conditions in China, and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the administration is troubled by the panel's failure to condemn serious human rights abuses elsewhere.

Mr. Boucher said, "We remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation in places like Zimbabwe [and] Iran. Disappointed that the members chose not to take action on the Zimbabwe resolution. Again disappointed by the narrow loss on Chechnya. I guess what I would say is that we continue to believe it's important for all nations to stand up in support of human rights. We will do so when we return to the commission, we hope in next year's session.

The commission earlier Monday ended an 18-year-old tradition of criticizing the human rights performance of Iran's Islamic government when it voted down a resolution to that effect from the European Union.

Mr. Boucher said the administration applauds those countries "that did stand up" for human rights and democracy in Geneva, and a senior official here said the results of this year's meeting show the importance of having an active defender of human rights like the United States on the commission.

Administration officials say the United States is assured of a seat on the commission next year after negotiating a deal in March giving it a place on a four-nation slate reserved mainly for West European countries.