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New UN Rights Council Includes Russia, Excludes Iran

Human rights defenders have repeatedly criticized Russia's conduct during its war in Chechnya (file photo) UNITED NATIONS, May 10, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The United Nations General Assembly has selected the 47 countries that will sit on the new UN Human Rights Council.

Countries that received the required absolute majority of 96 votes from the 191-member General Assembly included some nations regarded by human rights organizations as notable rights abusers, including Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, and Saudi Arabia.

However, Iran, another rights abuser, was denied a seat, as was Iraq.

Other nations that gained spots on the council include Algeria, Brazil, Britain, France, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Romania, South Africa, and Ukraine.

The United States declined to seek election to the new body.

The United States had opposed the council's creation, saying the rules were not tough enough to prevent rights-abusing countries from gaining seats.

The new council, which is due to open its first session in mid-June, replaces the old UN Human Rights Commission, which became discredited after states criticized for their rights record won seats and began influencing the commission's work.