Syria defers run for seat of UN Rights Council

Diplomats say Damascus and Kuwait will swap candidacies, will make bid for place on the council in 2013, Kuwait will run now.

UNHRC headquarters 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
UNHRC headquarters 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
UNITED NATIONS - Syria, engaged in a violent crackdown against anti-government protesters, on Wednesday dropped its bid for a seat this year on the top UN human rights body, Syrian and Kuwaiti envoys said.
Syria told a closed meeting of Asian UN members it had agreed to swap candidacies with Kuwait, which was slated to run for the Human Rights Council in 2013, and drop out of the 2011 race, Kuwait's UN Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Alotaibi said.
RELATED:UN chief urges Syria to halt crackdown on unrestVideo: Syria continues armed campaign on Homs, five killed
"We agreed to exchange terms. We are not running against Syria. Syria is not withdrawing," he told reporters.
Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari denied that his government had been under pressure to pull out of the race for the Human Rights Council or that the decision was connected with events on the ground in Syria. He said his country would run for a three-year term on the rights council in 2013.
"It's based on the Syrian government's will to reschedule the timing of our candidacy ... based on reconsidering our priorities," Ja'afari said.
Under a prearranged deal among Asian states, which at the United Nations include Middle Eastern countries, Syria had been planning to run along with India, Indonesia and the Philippines for the four spots available to Asia on the 47-nation council.
Alotaibi said that Kuwait's agreement with Syria to exchange candidacies was unanimously endorsed by the members of the Asian group.
UN diplomats said that Western countries incensed at the Syrian crackdown, which has killed hundreds of civilians according to Syrian human rights groups, put heavy pressure on the Asian bloc to come up with another candidate.
Several diplomats in the Asian group said Syria had justified the swap by saying it would use the two-year delay to complete internal reforms promised by President Bashar Assad.
The 192-nation UN General Assembly will hold its annual elections for one third of the seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council on May 20.
The council is the main UN body charged with monitoring member states' compliance with international human rights norms. Critics say it spends too much time bashing Israel while ignoring violations by countries like Sri Lanka, Bahrain, China, Russia and others.