//Arab states keep Israel in U.N. human rights dock

Arab states keep Israel in U.N. human rights dock

By Stephanie Nebehay, Sat Jul 1, 2006

GENEVA (Reuters) – Arab and Muslim states on Friday won a decision to keep Israel in the United Nations dock for alleged abuses in the occupied territories, overcoming U.S.-led opposition to singling out the Jewish state.

A resolution to put the issue on the agenda of future sessions, brought by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), easily won passage at the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The bloc also succeeded in mustering enough votes at the 47-member forum to hold a special session on the Palestinian territories, possibly next week.

But U.S. ambassador Warren Tichenor said a historic opportunity had been lost.

"Rather than address a number of urgent human rights situations around the world in a fair, equitable and balanced way, this new Human Rights Council has instead pursued an unbalanced agenda to single out and focus on Israel alone," Tichenor told reporters.

The U.S. delegation has observer status at the forum after choosing not to stand for election.

A second OIC resolution, expressing deep concern at an "increasing trend of defamation of religions" and incitement to religious hatred, was also adopted along similar voting lines.

DIVISIVE VOTES

The votes were divisive, diplomats and U.N. sources said.

Many states and activists had hoped all decisions would be taken by consensus to avoid the bitter acrimony that marked the council's predecessor body, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which debated Palestinian issues at each annual session.

The new forum can launch inquiries into abuses and refer emergency situations to its parent body, the U.N. General Assembly.

The vote to examine the situation in the Palestinian territories at future sessions passed with 29 countries in favour, 12 against, five abstentions and one delegation absent.

The resolution also called for existing U.N. human rights investigators to report on the situation in the territories at the council's next regular session, set for September.

Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria were among the resolution's sponsors. Western countries, including Britain, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan, voted against it.

In a speech before the vote, Israel's ambassador Itzhak Levanon rejected the OIC text on the territories as "imbalanced and intentionally one-sided".

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