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Russia urges new UN body to avoid politicizing human rights

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Russia hopes the UN's new Human Rights Council will avoid the mistakes of its predecessor, which used human-rights issues to exert political pressure on nations, a deputy foreign minister said Monday.

GENEVA, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia hopes the UN's new Human Rights Council will avoid the mistakes of its predecessor, which used human-rights issues to exert political pressure on nations, a deputy foreign minister said Monday.

The Council, which on June 16 replaced the Commission on Human Rights as part of a UN reform, is meeting in Geneva for its first session Monday to determine its agenda and mechanisms to take on duties from its predecessor.

And Alexander Yakovenko said he hoped the new council would not repeat the former body's negative features.

"Above all, we would like to avoid any further politicization of this body's activities so that discussions of human-rights issues are not turned into an instrument of political pressure on individual countries," he said.

The deputy foreign minister is expected to attend the High-Level Segment of meetings on June 19-22 to be attended by senior officials from over 100 countries and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The council comprises 47 states elected by the General Assembly based on their human rights records, including Russia and two other former Soviet nations, Ukraine and Azerbaijan. The Commission on Human Rights consisted of 53 members.

"One of the issues to be discussed is our [Russia's] presence in the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights. Russians are not working in the office at the moment, which is unacceptable," Yakovenko said, adding that Russia's dues to the office had been $2 million since December 2005.

UN diplomats said the first session, which will last until June 30, would be largely organizational, as the member countries would have to study its predecessor's legacy.

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