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U.N. human rights body approves investigator on Iran

An activist of the human rights organization Amnesty International holds a picture of Iranian citizen Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani during a demonstration in front of Iran's Embassy in Buenos Aires, November 5, 2010. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. Human Rights Council agreed on Thursday to a U.S.-backed proposal to establish a U.N. human rights investigator for Iran, the first in a decade.

The 47-member Geneva forum approved the resolution by 22 votes in favor, 7 against and 14 abstentions, its president, Thai Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, announced.

The council voiced concern at Iran’s crackdown on opposition figures and increased use of the death penalty, and called on the Islamic Republic to cooperate with the U.N. envoy to be named to the independent post.

“The United States and other partners are gravely concerned at the situation in Iran where respect for human rights has deteriorated dramatically in recent years,” U.S. human rights ambassador Eileen Donahoe said in a speech before the vote.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said earlier this month that Iran had intensified its crackdown on opponents and executions of drug traffickers, political prisoners and juvenile criminals.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in a speech to the Council last month -- a few days after Washington slapped new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear activities -- called for the creation of the U.N. rights post.

The Council’s predecessor body, the Human Rights Commission, had special rapporteurs on Iran from 1984 to 2002. But Iran has failed to cooperate with the U.N. human rights office in a meaningful way since then, U.N. officials and diplomats say.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Callus and Mark Heinrich