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UN To Vote On New Human Rights Council

(RFE/RL) 24 February 2006 -- UN General Assembly President Jan Eliasson has called for a vote next week on a proposal to replace the discredited UN Human Rights Commission with a smaller Human Rights Council.

Eliasson says passage of the draft resolution will strengthen human rights and toughen criteria for membership on the council.

The draft is supported by nongovernmental organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Human Rights First. Each has urged approval.

But those groups also are expressing concern that the 47-member council would be elected by an absolute majority of the General Assembly -- not the two-thirds majority they had sought to keep countries with poor human rights records from winning seats.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the draft text is "not ideal" but represents progress.

John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has suggested the text be submitted for what he called "real international negotiations."

(AP, Reuters, AFP)