The United States has walked out of a session of the U.N. Economic and Social Council to protest Sudan's election to the world body's Human Rights Commission. The Sudanese representative replied with a harsh attack on the U.S. human rights record.

U.S. Ambassador Sichan Siv told the Council, the United States is perplexed and dismayed at Sudan's election to a third term on the U.N. Human Rights Commission. Describing it as a country that massacres its own citizens, Ambassador Siv said Sudan's membership threatens to undermine not only the commission's work, but its credibility. ?But the least we should be able to do is to not elect a country to the only global body charged specifically with protecting human rights, at the precise time when thousands of its citizens are being murdered or left to die of starvation,? he said.

The U.S. representative noted that Secretary General Kofi Annan last month delivered a strong condemnation of the Sudan government's behavior in the Darfur region, likening events there to 'ethnic cleansing'. He said Washington could not accept Sudan's election.

?The U.S. will not participate in this absurdity,? he said. ?Our delegation will absent itself from the meeting, rather than lend support to Sudan's candidacy.?

Sudan's delegate to the Council, Ambassador Omer Bashir Mohamed Manis, replied with an equally harsh criticism of alleged U.S. human rights violations. He spoke of reported actions of U.S. troops in Iraq, in particular the latest reports of abuse of Iraqi prisoners. ?The infamous and degrading treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison are still fresh in the media and the minds of all justice-loving people around the world,? he added.

The ambassador also mentioned the treatment of Afghan prisoners at the U.S. base at Guantanamo, as well as the recent U.S. military assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Several human rights groups have also protested Sudan's election to the U.N. commission. In a statement, Human Rights Watch said governments that engage in wholesale abuses of their citizens should not be eligible for a seat at the table, especially one recently criticized by the commission.

Late last month, the commission expressed concern about the situation in Sudan's Darfur region, but stopped short of a formal statement of condemnation.

The United States also walked out of an Economic and Social Council meeting in protest last year, when Cuba was elected to the Human Rights Commission.