U.S. on edge over Human Rights Council election

The United States has launched a last-minute scramble for votes to secure its spot on the UN Human Rights Council in an election Monday.

US diplomats are said to be “nervous” as they compete with Germany, Greece, Ireland and Sweden for three seats among 18 on the panel to be picked by the United Nations General Assembly.

The 47-member council has taken on a steadily higher profile since it was created six years ago, but the Western nations group is the only one that will hold a competitive poll for seats.

In the run-up to the election, rights groups criticized the behind-closed-doors deals by Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe that will see countries such as Pakistan, Venezuela and Ethiopia guaranteed seats. Russia, China and Cuba, often taken to task for their rights records, will leave the council at the end of the year.

The Geneva-based council’s new importance could be seen by the stepped up lobbying for spots.

Germany sent Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to New York this week to press his country’s case.

“This is really a key issue, human rights, for us,” Westerwelle told a reception for UN ambassadors.

“This is important for the German government, important for the chancellor, important for my work as foreign minister,” he said.

The Human Rights Council should not be a venue for making “sweeping allegations,” the minister added. “Developed countries do not have a monopoly on safeguarding human rights.”

“We want to act as a bridge builder. Cooperation not confrontation is the motto which guides our action.”

The United States, coming to the end of its first three-year term on the council, has had to launch an all-out campaign for votes because of its late decision to seek a second seat.

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