The United States said Tuesday it will not seek a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council for the second straight year. U.S. officials say the reconfigured United Nations rights agency, part of a broader U.N. reform program, has been a major disappointment.  VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.

U.S. officials initially had hopes that the new Human Rights Council would be an improvement over the much-criticized U.N. Human Rights Commission.

But Washington ended up opposing the council when it was set up a year ago because, like its predecessor, it did not exclude countries considered chronic human rights violators.

At a news briefing, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States has again decided not to be a candidate for membership in the 47-nation council.

He said the United States intends to remain a forceful advocate for human rights, but independent of the council, which he said has lost credibility with a selective bias against Israel while ignoring pressing issues elsewhere:

"The Human Rights Council has thus far not proved itself to be a credible body in the mission it's been charged with," said Mr. McCormick.  "There's been a nearly singular focus on issues relating to Israel, for example, to the exclusion of examining issues of real concern to the international system, whether it's in Cuba or Burma, or North Korea."

McCormack said the United States will maintain observer status on the council and hopes over time it will expand its focus and become a more credible institution.

Human rights groups say China, Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan were among countries elected to the council last year, which were not deserving of membership because of rights abuses.

In action welcomed by the same groups, Iran and Venezuela failed to attract the necessary simple majority vote in the U.N. General Assembly.

When it declined to run last year, some analysts believed the United States might have also failed to be elected, because of criticism of its practices related to the war on terrorism, including operating the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention site.

Announcement that the United States will again not be a candidate came on the same day the State Department issued its annual report on human rights conditions worldwide.

The preamble of that report acknowledged continued criticism of U.S. policies and said the United States is committed to improvement and a forthright response to the concerns of others.