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US Regains Seat on UN Human Rights Commission - 2002-04-29

The United States has regained the seat it lost last year on the 53-member U.N. Human Rights Commission.

The United States won one of four seats earmarked for western nations on the Human Rights Commission. Its victory was virtually assured after Italy and Spain pulled out of the race in March.

The United States says it is very pleased and grateful to be back. U.S. envoy Sichan Siv told reporters the United States will speak out on human rights, whether it is a member of the Commission or not. But he said Washington lost momentum on some important rights issues over the past year:

"It was quite difficult because, we as a non-member, as an observer, we were not able to introduce resolutions. And unfortunately we lost a few resolutions on Iran, on Chechnya, on Zimbabwe. So when we get back, we look forward to providing some leadership at the commission."

Last year was the first time the United States did not occupy a seat on the Human Rights Commission since it was founded in 1947. The Commission, considered the top U.N. human rights body, investigates human rights violations around the world.

The U.S. absence on the Commission caused an uproar on Capitol Hill among U.S. legislators, and the Bush Administration is said to have lobbied hard behind the scenes to get its seat back.

Germany, Ireland and Australia won the other three Western seats on the Human Rights Commission.