World

UN human rights committee votes to censure Iran

A United Nations committee has approved a Canadian-led resolution urging Iran to stop harassing political opponents in the wake of its disputed presidential elections.

A United Nations committee has approved a Canadian-led resolution urging Iran to stop harassing political opponents in the wake of its disputed presidential elections.

The vote Friday in the General Assembly's 192-member human rights committee passed with 74 in favour, 48 against and 59 abstentions.

The resolution censured Iran for its human rights record, including the arbitrary arrests, detentions and the disappearance of Iranians who protested after the elections this year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon welcomed the result and said it draws international attention to the political situation in Iran.

"The adoption of this resolution is another clear signal of the international community’s concern for the human rights of people in Iran," Cannon said in a statement. "It sends a message of hope to the victims of violations and to the human rights defenders who seek to effect positive change in Iran."

Iran dismisses resolution

Mohammad Khazaee, Iran's UN ambassador, called the resolution "politically motivated" and dismissed the election claims as "entirely misleading and incorrect." Khazaee noted that the majority of the voters in the committee either voted against the resolution or abstained.

The resolution must now be approved at a plenary session of the 192-member world body. Canadian governments have tabled the draft resolution censuring Iran every year since the 2003 torture and murder of Iranian-Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi.

The resolutions are largely symbolic and are not legally binding.

This year's resolution was approved by a margin of 26 votes, an improvement over last year's resolution, which passed by 16 votes.

The vote comes the same day representatives from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom — and Germany are meeting in Brussels to discuss possible measures against Tehran for its refusal to halt nuclear enrichment activities.

Earlier this week, Iran rejected a UN-backed proposal for the country to send its uranium to be processed abroad. Under this plan, Iran would export its uranium for enrichment in Russia and France, where it would be converted into fuel rods and returned about a year later. The rods can power reactors but cannot readily be turned into weapons-grade material.

Iran's refusal prompted U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the possibility of imposing new sanctions against Iran.

An EU official said there was no mention during the Friday meeting of imposing sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt nuclear enrichment activities. The official said this was not the right time to raise the issue.

Representatives at the Brussels meeting said they would hold a follow-up session around Christmas.

The outgoing head of the UN's nuclear watchdog appealed to Iran to accept the agreement, while advising Western countries during a news conference in Berlin on Friday not to pursue more sanctions.

"I would hate to see that we are moving back to sanctions," said Mohamed El-Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "Because sanctions, at the end of the day … really don't resolve issues."

El-Baradei, who steps down from the agency on Nov. 30, said he had yet to receive a final answer from Iran about the deal but was hopeful an agreement could still be reached by the end of the year.

With files from The Associated Press