UN committee urges death penalty halt, US opposed
* Number of yes votes edges up
* Singapore amendment to soften wording fails
UNITED NATIONS Nov 11 (Reuters) - A U.N. General Assembly committee called for a moratorium on the death penalty on Thursday, while the United States joined China, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and others in opposing the measure.
The vote in the assembly's human rights committee, which includes all 192 U.N. member states, is a periodic ritual that divides the United States from the vast majority of European and other Western nations, which reject capital punishment.
A nonbinding resolution calling for the moratorium received 107 votes in favor, 38 against and 36 abstentions. The General Assembly is expected to adopt the resolution formally with another vote in December.
The number of yes votes was slightly higher than in December 2007 when a similar resolution received 104 votes in favor. The number of votes against it dropped sharply from 54 in 2007, while the number of abstentions rose from 29.
The resolution said the assembly welcomed "the decisions made by an increasing number of states to apply a moratorium on executions" and urged other nations "to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty."
Singapore introduced one of three amendments to the draft resolution before the vote, aimed at softening the language. The amendment proposed adding that the General Assembly "reaffirms the sovereign right of all countries to develop their own legal systems."
The U.S. delegation voted in favor of the Singaporean amendment, which failed to win sufficient support to be included in the final version.
Among others that voted against the resolution were Egypt, Singapore and Myanmar.
An Egyptian delegate told the assembly the United Nations should focus on "due process rather than abolition," sentiments echoed by the U.S. delegate.
The European Union was the driving force behind the resolution, although there were African, Asian and Latin American states that signed on as co-sponsors. Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, East Timor, Rwanda, Mozambique and Russia were among the resolution's sponsors and also voted for it. (Reporting Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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