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US rejoins UN’s human rights forum

Bush had shunned it as an ineffective dictators' club. Obama's team pledges to work from within to 'improve' it.

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The United States won a seat on the United Nations' top human rights organization Tuesday, closing out another vestige of the Bush administration's confrontational relationship with the world body.

But the US election to the 47-seat Human Rights Council was overshadowed by the election of several countries – including Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon, and China – that human rights organizations often cite as violators of their own citizens’ rights.

As a result, Tuesday's vote in the UN General Assembly added fuel to a debate – percolating since the Obama administration announced in March its intentions to reverse Bush policy and seek a seat on the council – over whether human rights can be advanced by a body that is willing to seat rights violators.

The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, hailed the return to the human rights forum as part of America's determination "to again play a meaningful leadership role in multilateral organizations." The US will not wait for a 2011 review of the council to try to reform it, she added, but "will be working very hard from an early stage to try to support the strengthening and improvement of this body."

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