*Israel says body criticizes it excessively
*US envoy criticizes move to probe Gaza aid flotilla attack
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States
criticized the main U.N. human rights forum Wednesday for
what it called an unbalanced approach to Israel but made clear
it would go on working with a body it joined just last year.
The comments in the U.N. General Assembly came as the
United States is placing its own rights record under scrutiny
this week by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council, which is
gradually examining the performance of all 192 U.N. members.
U.S. envoy Rick Barton praised some of the council's work
but said Washington continued "to be disappointed with the
council's unbalanced and one-sided approach to the human rights
situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories."
The 47-member council, set up in 2006 to replace a
discredited commission, is dominated by a bloc of developing
countries, many of them Muslim. Israel and its allies charge
that it devotes an excessive amount of time to condemning the
practices of the Jewish state.
Barton told an assembly session considering a report by the
council on its activities over the past year that the United
States could not support council resolutions targeting Israel.
He said such resolutions "attempt to delegitimize the
government of Israel" and did not mention "the serious
violations of international law deliberately committed by" the
Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza.
Barton also criticized the council's "hasty" resolution to
set up a fact-finding mission to investigate Israel's May 31
attack on an aid flotilla trying to run the Israeli blockade of
Gaza, in which Israeli commandos killed nine people.
Despite opposition by some pro-Israel groups, the Obama
administration took the United States into the council last
year with a promise to focus on traditional Western concerns
about civil and political freedoms.
Barton said that despite U.S. reservations, Washington
would "continue to work together with our fellow council
members to strengthen the council's work" to carry out
principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The council was harshly attacked in the assembly debate by
Israeli envoy Haim Waxman, who accused it of "turning a blind
eye to the worst human rights violations throughout the world,
while conveniently and obsessively focusing on Israel."
"This, however, should come as no surprise considering that
some of the world's worst human rights violators sit on this
council and all too often dictate its proceedings," Waxman
Other speakers praised the work of the council. Opening the
debate, its president, Sihasak Phuangketkeow of Thailand, said
that over the past year it had "fulfilled its mandates to
advance the promotion and protection of human rights."
(Reporting by Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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