Obama Administration Officials Cite ‘Progress’ in Syria Not Getting Seat on UN Human Rights Council

May 20, 2011 2:15pm

Syria was not elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council Friday, a move that officials with the U.S. mission to the UN called a sign of progress – and a confirmation that the Obama administration’s decision to try to change the council from within was bearing fruit.

The Bush administration refused to join the Human Rights Council because, officials said, it has a deep bias against Israel and has counted horrific human rights abusers such as the governments of Sudan and Libya among its members in the past.

“The Obama administration does not disagree,” an administration official told ABC News. “But in 2009 we made the decision to run for a seat on the council to fix it from within.”

Last year, the U.S. and allies successfully lobbied to deny a seat to Iran, officials said. This year, it did the same with the government of Syria.

A spokesman for the US mission to the United Nations, Mark Kornblau, tweeted earlier today: “#UN just elected new members of Human Rights Council. 10 days ago #Syria was a shoe-in, today they are not even on the ballot. #progress"

Fifteen countries today were elected today to three-year terms on the 47-member Human Rights Council: Austria, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Republic of Congo, Chile, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Kuwait, India, Indonesia, Italy, Peru, Philippines, and Romania.

Originally, the block of Asian countries – which include Middle East countries – selected Syria as one of four countries from its block that members would support getting a seat on the UN HRC. (The other three are India, Indonesia and the Philippines.)

But the US Ambassador, Dr. Susan Rice, and others successfully lobbied other Asian countries to replace Syria with Kuwait.

Kuwait, of course, has its own issues, but its government isn’t massacring its own people in the streets as in Syria.

Last week the Syrian Ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja’afari, announced that his country was withdrawing its candidacy and “reprioritizing its candidacies in the UN organization in light of the number of reform measures that the government has started to implement.”

– Jake Tapper

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