- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2006

NEW YORK — The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations proposed yesterday that the five permanent Security Council members assume the right to sit on a new Human Rights Council.

Negotiations to replace the rights council have become the dominant topic at the United Nations. Past members of the 53-nation council have included notorious human rights abusers, such as Zimbabwe and Cuba.

U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said the Geneva-based rights panel would be a more effective watchdog of human rights if the five permanent Security Council members — the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain — had seats.

“The presence of the permanent five on any U.N. body makes it more serious and more likely to succeed over the long term, and that includes in the field of human rights,” Mr. Bolton said.

Negotiations on the Human Rights Council resume next Wednesday.

The size of the proposed Human Rights Council and even how its members would be elected still are under debate, but negotiations must finish soon because the current commission likely will hold its last session this spring.

At present, regional groups nominate countries for inclusion on the council.

Mr. Bolton, who is pushing for top-to-bottom reform at the United Nations, invoked the so-called “Perm-5” convention — an unwritten, customary practice that allows any of the permanent five members of the Security Council to serve on any U.N. body it chooses.

In return for this privilege, Mr. Bolton pointed out, the permanent members hardly ever push to serve as chairmen of the U.N. bodies.

In other areas, the United States does not favor expanding the number of permanent members on the Security Council. The five, all victors in World War II, have a veto on the Security Council, the U.N. body deciding questions of war and peace.

One concern about Mr. Bolton’s proposal is that it would give permanent seats on the Human Rights Council to China and Russia, countries widely criticized for their own human rights abuses.

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