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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 May 2006, 05:42 GMT 06:42 UK
US criticises new UN rights body
John Bolton, US envoy to the UN
John Bolton was highly critical of Cuba's inclusion
The US has attacked the newly-formed United Nations Human Rights Council after countries such as Cuba were elected to its 47-member body.

Cuba, China and Pakistan are among many nations considered to have poor rights records which have joined the new body.

The US envoy to the UN, John Bolton, said the council looked set to inherit the flaws of its predecessor, the discredited UN Human Rights Commission.

Rights groups have broadly welcomed the creation of the new council.

Many countries that had belonged to the disbanded Human Rights Commission and had been accused of violating human rights did not seek membership to the council.

The head of New York-based pressure group, Human Rights Watch, said the absence of several "spoiler governments" from the new body would make its work easier.

"That doesn't guarantee that the council will be a success but it is a step in the right direction," Kenneth Roth told the Associated Press news agency.

'Resounding victory'

The US has opposed the council's creation, arguing it did not go far enough to prevent countries with bad rights records from winning seats.

UN general assembly
The new council is seen as a key part of broader UN reforms

Responding to the election of Cuba to the council, Mr Bolton said sarcastically: "What a joy", the AFP news agency reported.

"That simply says that the deficiencies from the previous commission may well now still be carried over."

Cuba, however, said its election was a "resounding victory" and a snub to the US.

Mr Bolton said the US, which did not stand, would work with member states "to make the council as strong and effective as it can be".

Rights pledge

A total of 67 countries stood for the council. Several criticised for abusing human rights - including China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Russia - were elected.

Human Rights Watch had urged the UN not to elect them.

Africa: 13
Asia: 13
Latin America and Caribbean: 8
Eastern Europe: 6
Western Europe and others: 7

But a spokesman for the group told the BBC that they had expected most of those five to win places because of their political power.

Venezuela and Iran - also judged unsuitable - failed to win election.

Russia was one of six Eastern European nations election onto the new body. The others were Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Ukraine

Each nation standing for election had to pledge to promote human rights.

Campaigners hope it will be less politicised and more willing to act on abuse than its predecessor.

'Bad joke'

Many recent commission members with poor human rights records did not stand for election, including Sudan, Zimbabwe, Syria, Nepal, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan, at the UN, says the old commission was widely seen as a bad joke.

Whether the new Human Rights Council really represents an improvement on the old Commission depends on how it acts from hereon in, she adds.

The creation of the Human Rights Council is seen as a key component of overall reform of the United Nations.

The regional composition of the new council is based on population. To get a seat a country had to be elected by a majority vote of the 191-member General Assembly.

The council will be based in Geneva and is expected to hold its first meeting on 19 June.

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