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US says Israel likely to boycott UN rights review

Jan. 24, 2013 6:30 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 25, 2013 7:04 P.M.)
GENEVA (Reuters) -- Israel is expected to boycott the UN Human Rights Council next week despite the United States urging its ally to show up for an examination of its record, the US ambassador said on Thursday.

Israel is scheduled to be in the dock of the Geneva rights forum on Tuesday, Jan. 29 as part of the Universal Periodic Review process, the council's regular scrutiny of all United Nations member states.

"They (Israeli officials) signaled that they want it postponed. It is very unlikely they will participate on the 29th," US human rights ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe told reporters in Geneva.

"I'm fairly optimistic we will find a solution that does not undermine universality or cooperation. That is my hope."

Israel's last review was in December 2008, when it attended. A boycott would be unprecedented and diplomats fear other countries might follow suit to avoid scrutiny of their human rights records.

Israel suspended relations with the council last May because of what it called an inherent bias against it, and has informally told the council's president, Poland's ambassador, that it wants the session postponed, a UN spokesman said.

"A decision will be taken in the event Israel does not show up for its UPR, the council will decide on a course of action. States are working very hard behind the scenes to come up with a solution," council spokesman Rolando Gomez told Reuters.

Islamic states, often led by Pakistan and Iran in the forum, would have to agree to any postponement of the examination of Israel's record. The next UPR sessions are in April and October.

A team of UN investigators, set up by the council last year, is due to report soon on whether Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories violate international human rights law. Washington cast the only vote against the initiative brought by the Palestinian Authority.

The United States was re-elected by the UN General Assembly in November to the 47-member state forum, which it first joined in 2009 after the Bush administration snubbed it.

"We see a strong bias against Israel that has not gone away," Donahoe said on Thursday.

But Washington has urged its ally to take part in the UPR whose universality it does not want to see "broken", she said.

"We have encouraged Israel to come to the UPR, to tell its story, to present its own narrative of its human rights situation. We think it is a good opportunity to do that."

Donahoe added: "My feeling is members understand that it is not only about Israel."
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