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McCormack: U.S. Not Candidate For U.N. Human Rights Council

By Warren Hoge


The United States said Thursday it would not be a candidate for the new U.N. Human Rights Council, which was approved last month by the General Assembly with Washington nearly alone in opposition.

Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said that the United States would sit out the first election for the council in May but would support other countries with strong rights records and would be likely to run for a seat a year from now.

The council, which will hold its first meeting in Geneva in June, replaces the human rights commission, which had been widely discredited for allowing notorious rights abusers like Sudan and Zimbabwe on the panel.

The election of the 47 new members is scheduled for May 9, and as of Thursday, 40 countries, including China, Cuba and Iran, had formally signed up to run.

Thursday’s announcement by the State Department followed weeks of intense consultations throughout the government that appeared to many U.N. officials to be preparing the ground for American participation on the panel. A number of members of Congress, including some of the United Nations’ harshest Republican critics, had joined rights groups in lobbying the Bush administration to make the United States a candidate.

Although it voted against the council last month, saying that the new membership requirements still would not do enough to keep major rights violators out, the United States had signaled its desire to be cooperative, agreeing to the funding of the new panel and pledging to support it.

“This is a major retrenchment in America’s long struggle to advance the cause of human rights around the world and it is a profound signal of U.S. isolation at a time when we need to work cooperatively with our Security Council partners,” said Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the leading Democrat on the House International Relations Committee and founding co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.