Western states challenge Iran at UN rights council

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Western states on Thursday challenged Iran over its claim that it was cooperating with the UN Human Rights Council, as they faulted Tehran for preventing UN experts from visiting the country.

A senior Iranian official hit back, saying that five UN special rapporteurs had visited. He also took the United States to task over what he described as "ill-founded" accusations.

During the UN meeting reviewing Iran's rights record, US ambassador Eileen Donahoe pointed to Iran's claim of a standing invitation to all UN rights mandate holders.

"The United States however notes that no visits by special rapporteurs and other mandate holders have occured since 2006 despite many attempts and requests. We urge Iran to cooperate," she said.

"Iran is in violation of its international responsabilities on at least two fronts -- one is the nuclear material matter, and the other is human rights matters," Donahoe told reporters following the meeting.

"Empty promises are not enough ... it is time for Iran to actually do something in respect with the human rights situation."

A Norwegian envoy also said her country "cannot accept the rejection to accept the special rapporteur on torture to visit the country."

"The government of Iran has earlier issued a standing invitation... Thus, this seems contradictory at best," she added.

British ambassador Peter Gooderham also highlighted Iran's "failure to cooperate" with UN human rights experts.

The secretary general of Iran's High Council for Human Rights Mohammad Javad Larijani rejected the criticism, saying that Tehran's invitation to UN experts was standing.

"Already we have hosted more than five of these special rapporteurs. Already we are preparing their presence in the near future in different forms," he said.

Instead, Larijani turned to criticising the United States for its "ill-founded" claims against Iran, objecting to "a barrage" of US accusations. "Most of them are ill-founded and without any substance," he said.

"I recommend to the ... United States to look at their record of human rights. Unfortunately, it is very dismal. The United States is a society full of prejudice, xenophobia, Islamophobia and other phobia," he charged.

The UN's independent rapporteurs say they have been unable to gain access to the country for five years despite an open invitation the previous Iranian president, reformist Mohammad Khatami, made in 2003.

© 2010 AFP

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