- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

NEW YORK — The United States will vote against the proposed new U.N. Human Rights Council unless negotiations are reopened to address what it considers serious deficiencies, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John R. Bolton said yesterday.

After months of divisive and highly contentious negotiations, U.N. General Assembly President Jan Eliasson presented a compromise proposal Thursday to create the new council and called for a quick vote, preferably this week.

It received wide support, though the United States immediately expressed reservations and raised the possibility of reopening negotiations.

A primary U.S. goal in the negotiations has been to ensure that human rights offenders are barred from membership on a new council, and it wanted a small, permanent body.

The council would replace the widely criticized and highly politicized Human Rights Commission, which has been attacked for allowing some of the worst-offending countries to use their membership to protect one another from condemnation or to criticize others. In recent years, commission members have included Sudan, Libya, Zimbabwe and Cuba.

“I say this more in sorrow than in anger, but we’re very disappointed with the draft that was produced last Thursday,” Mr. Bolton said yesterday. “We don’t think it’s acceptable.”

“My instructions are to reopen the negotiations and to try and correct the manifold deficiencies in the text of the resolution or alternatively to push off consideration of the resolution for several months to give us more time,” he said.

Mr. Bolton said it was his understanding that Mr. Eliasson would bring the matter to the General Assembly floor for a vote within the next two days.

“If he continues on that course, we will call for a vote and vote no,” Mr. Bolton said.

While supporters of a major overhaul of the U.N. human rights machinery were not happy with all the provisions in Mr. Eliasson’s final draft, human rights groups and a dozen Nobel Peace Prize winners urged the United States to support the new council, calling it a significant step forward.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who first proposed replacing the discredited Human Rights Commission last March, also urged support, as did France, South Africa, Costa Rica and a number of other countries.

Under the proposal, the 53-member Human Rights Commission would be replaced by a 47-member Human Rights Council elected by an absolute majority of the 191-member General Assembly and not the two-thirds majority that Mr. Annan, the United States and human rights campaigners had sought in an effort exclude abusers.

Every U.N. member state would be eligible for membership, but the new draft toughens the criteria. Council members must “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, fully cooperate with the council” and have their human rights records reviewed during their three-year terms.

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