March 1, 2006

US thinks UN will delay new rights body for months

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. members may delay
consideration of a crucial Human Rights Council for several
months rather than reopen negotiations on the text the United
States has rejected, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on

At the same time, Britain broke ranks with several European
nations by saying the U.N. General Assembly should not approve
a resolution on the new council without U.S. consent.

Bolton on Monday announced Washington's opposition to a
draft resolution on the Human Rights Council. Republican
members of the U.S. Congress want to make the formation of the
council one of the conditions for paying the full U.S. dues to
the United Nations.

He proposed new talks among governments, which supporters
of the draft text say would not improve the resolution but open
up line-by-line negotiations to all countries. Cuba, for
example, has already submitted its own amendments.

On Wednesday, Bolton told reporters his discussions with
other nations showed most preferred to put off a vote for
several months rather than have new talks.

"I read the predominant view to be to defer consideration
for several months," Bolton said. "The predominant sentiment I
think today is against reopening negotiations and leaning more
toward putting the whole thing off."

European Union nations, most of whom were willing to accept
the draft resolution drawn up by General Assembly President Jan
Eliasson after months of haggling, were unable to take a
unified position after the U.S. rejection, diplomats said.

"The European Union wants to see the Human Rights Council
put in place as soon as possible," said Britain's ambassador,
Emyr Jones Parry. "We would like to see that text adopted as a
basis of consensus among the (U.N.) membership."


But he said Europeans also recognized "that adopting that
text without United States support isn't good for human rights
and it's not particularly good for the council."

"And that is the dilemma the president of the General
Assembly has, and we will give him whatever help we can as he
decides now how to go forward," Jones Parry said.

The new rights council is to replace the discredited
Geneva-based Human Rights Commission, where rights violators
have protected condemnation of other nations' abuses.

Eliasson, who had hoped for a vote this week, gave few
clues about what he would do next.

"I have stated several times that I can see grave
difficulties with renegotiation, and I can see grave
difficulties with changing the text," Eliasson said.

"And therefore I would hope that we would come to closure
on this before the Human Rights Commission begins." The
commission is to start its annual six-week session March 13.

Bolton has said he wants to make it more difficult for
rights violators to gain a seat on the council, such as a
two-thirds vote in the General Assembly rather than an absolute
majority of 191 members as in the current draft resolution.

"It's an anomaly that it now takes a majority to get on the
council under this draft but two-thirds to get kicked off,"
Bolton said.

Diplomats said the United States had also expressed
last-minute concerns that Asian and African nations would form
a majority in the new council of 47 members.

The proposed text would distribute seats among regions: 13
for Africa, 13 for Asia, 6 for Eastern Europe, 8 for Latin
America and the Caribbean and 7 for a block of mainly Western
countries, including the United States and Canada.