Iran dismisses U.S. criticism of its election to U.N. NGO committee

UNITED NATIONS Thu Apr 24, 2014 3:37pm EDT

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Iran on Thursday rejected U.S. criticism of its election to the United Nations' committee on non-governmental organizations (NGOs), saying Washington's rebuke came from "baseless accusations" and violated the spirit of cooperation needed at the world body.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power on Wednesday said, "The unopposed candidacy of Iran, where authorities regularly detain human rights defenders, subjecting many to torture, abuse, and violations of due process, is a particularly troubling outcome."

Hamid Babaei, spokesman for Iran's U.N. mission in New York, vehemently rejected Power's remarks.

"Iran categorically rejects baseless accusations raised in the statement of (Power) regarding status of human rights and civil liberties in the Islamic Republic of Iran and find these assertions both unconstructive, obstructive and against the spirit of cooperation between sovereign member states," he said.

The harsh U.S. rebuke follows Washington's decision to deny entry to Tehran's proposed new U.N. ambassador Hamid Abutalebi over his suspected links to students who held U.S. embassy workers hostage for 444 days in 1979-1981, a move Iran has vowed to fight.

The committee Iran was elected to decides on which NGOs will be accredited at the United Nations. Conservative developing nations worked to block accreditation of an international gay-lesbian NGO several years ago, and the issue was taken to the General Assembly, which voted to accredit the group.

Babaei said Iran has a long track record of working effectively at the United Nations and nurtures a lively NGO community at home.

"Civil society and thousands of NGOs are actively pursuing their goals in different areas such as social, economic, environmental, political, women and human rights, etc in the Islamic Republic of Iran," his statement said.

"Against this backdrop, it is obvious that Iran's active presence in U.N. bodies will be helpful and serve the attainment of non-governmental organization objectives," the mission spokesman said.

UN Watch, a Geneva-based advocacy group that monitors the work of the United Nations, issued a statement on Thursday expressing outrage over Iran's election.

(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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