- The Washington Times - Monday, April 29, 2002

U.S. rejoins panel
NEW YORK The United States regains its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission today after a humiliating defeat last year for the first time since it helped found the body in 1947.
Italy and Spain pulled out of the race to make sure the United States wins a seat among those reserved for Western nations on the 53-member commission that probes human rights abuses around the world.
The U.N. Economic and Social Council, parent body of the Geneva-based rights commission, set the elections for today with many of the results decided in advance among regional groups.
Australia, Germany and Ireland will be elected along with the United States for membership in 2003 as representatives from the "Western European and Other States Group."
Last year's defeat stunned the Bush administration, and diplomats blamed the United States for poor lobbying, the huge debt Washington then owed the world body and Washington's rejection of global agreements on arms, climate and others.
In the arcane machinations of U.N. elections, almost all committee chairmanships and other posts are divided among geographic groupings. If a group fails to agree on a slate, the seats are open to a vote.

Burma 'progress' seen
RANGOON, Burma The ruling military junta said yesterday that "significant progress" in healing the 12-year-long rift between the junta and the pro-democracy movement will be revealed within days.
The announcement follows the latest mediation mission by an envoy from the United Nations to reconcile the military rulers and the opposition, led by Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
The two sides have been holding secret talks since October 2000. "Significant progress, a kind of action, will take place in a few days. Wait and see," Labor Minister Tin Win told reporters. But asked if Mrs. Suu Kyi might be freed from 18 months of house arrest, the minister said, "I don't think so." He gave no other details.
U.N. envoy Razali Ismail ended his seventh visit to Burma on Friday amid optimism that some kind of breakthrough in the deadlock would take place. He said that developments could unfold "quite quickly," and that he was "optimistic" after holding talks with junta leader Gen. Than Shwe.

Mission tours Africa
PRETORIA, South Africa A U.N. Security Council mission arrived in South Africa yesterday afternoon at the start of whirlwind tour of eight African countries aimed at boosting efforts to restore peace to the Congo and Burundi.
Headed by French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, the mission will visit South Africa, Zimbabwe, the Congo, Angola, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.
The trip follows a power-sharing deal struck April 18 by Congolese President Joseph Kabila and his former rebel foes in Jean-Pierre Bemba's Congolese Liberation Movement, which is backed by Uganda. The deal was spurned by the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and its Rwandan sponsors.
The RCD has since joined several Congolese political parties to form an alliance aimed at prolonging marathon peace talks that ended inconclusively this month in the South African resort of Sun City, at which the Kabila-Bemba deal was struck.

Work's toll tallied
GENEVA The International Labor Organization said yesterday that at least 2 million people per year die from accidents or illnesses at their places of work.
In a report published for today's international Workers Memorial Day ceremony at its Geneva headquarters, the organization said farming, construction and mining are by far the most dangerous jobs in developing and developed nations.
Giving a breakdown of the figures, it said about 5,000 died per day following accidents at work or as a result of sickness contracted at their places of work. The report said the presence of trade unions plays a significant role in reducing work-related deaths and injuries.
Today, the group's director-general, Juan Somavia, will celebrate Workers Memorial Day with members of the New York City Fire Department and firefighters from Switzerland, France, Italy and Britain.
Betsy Pisik is on assignment. Her column will resume when she returns.

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