UNITED NATIONS - A UN General Assembly committee on Tuesday condemned Syria for widespread human rights abuses and expressed concern about such violations in Iran, North Korea and Myanmar, but also welcomed pledges by Iran and Myanmar's presidents to improve some areas.
The draft resolution on Iran was approved with 83 votes in favor, 36 against and 62 abstentions; the draft on Syria was adopted with 123 votes in favor, 13 against and 46 abstentions; while the drafts on North Korea and Myanmar passed by consensus, although some states disassociated themselves with the texts.
The draft resolutions were approved by the 193-nation assembly's Third Committee, which focuses on human rights, and will be put to formal votes next month in the General Assembly. They are expected to pass with similar support.
The resolutions on these four countries have become an annual rite. They deepen international pressure and further isolate those states but have no legal consequences. All four countries lobby hard against the adoption of the resolutions.
While the draft resolution on Iran expressed concern at serious ongoing abuses, it also welcomed pledges by Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani on human rights issues such as eliminating discrimination against women and members of ethnic minorities and promoting freedom of expression and opinion.
It also praised Rouhani's plan to implement a civil rights charter and encouraged Iran "to take concrete action to ensure these pledges can result in demonstrable improvements as soon as possible and to uphold the government's obligations under its domestic laws and under international human rights law."
The UN envoy on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, told the committee last month that Iran's rights record should not be overlooked amid overtures to the West by Rouhani. He criticized Tehran for executing 724 people in 18 months, including dozens after Rouhani was elected in June.
Rouhani is a relative moderate who has opened a door for compromise on Iran's nuclear program after years of escalating confrontation with Western powers. Six global powers and Iran are due to meet again in Geneva on Wednesday to discuss ways towards a diplomatic deal.
Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee said the draft UN resolution "does not acknowledge the positive human rights developments in the Iranian society."
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has taken a long-term approach and genuine measures to safeguard all human rights of its people," he said.
SYRIA SLAMS SAUDI
The Syria draft resolution strongly condemned "the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms and all violations of international humanitarian law by the Syrian authorities and the government affiliated shabbiha militias."
More than 100,000 people have been killed during a 2-1/2 year civil war in Syria that has forced millions to flee.
"Our Syrian colleague will try to distract attention from what is happening in his country and criticize the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other co-sponsors," said Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdullah al-Mouallimi. Saudi Arabia led the drafting of the text, which was co-sponsored by more than 60 states.
"I would like to state frankly that perhaps we are not devoid of errors but we do not bombard our citizens by jets and we do not destroy them by tanks and nor do we kill thousands of our youngsters or destroy our children by toxic gases."
Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari accused Saudi Arabia of "fanning the flames" of the conflict in the country. Syria has long accused Gulf Arab states Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Britain and France, of arming the rebels.
Ja'afari said the Third Committee was being used for "interventionist political objectives."
"The introduction by the Saudi delegation ... of a draft resolution criticizing the situation of human rights in Syria is a strange paradox in itself because the Saudi regime is the last one that is entitled to talk about human rights," Ja'afari said.
Saudi Arabia, a patriarchal society that applies an austere version of Sunni Islam, has repeatedly been slammed for its record on women's rights. Saudi Arabia grants fathers guardianship over their daughters, giving them control over who they can marry and when, and it is also the only country in the world where women are barred from driving.
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