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U.S. ouster from human rights panel of U.N. is 'outrageous,' president says


WASHINGTON - President Bush called the United States' ouster from the United Nations Human Rights Commission "outrageous" yesterday, but said Washington should continue to pay its dues to the organization.

Bush told reporters at a news conference that he raised the topic of the commission earlier in the day in a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the White House.

"I told him it was hard for me to envision a Human Rights Commission without the United States. ... " Bush said. "We're off, and Sudan is on. That sent an awfully, awfully strange signal to the world, it seems like to me."

The United States lost its seat on the panel last week, coming in fourth in a contest for three seats reserved for Western nations.

France, Austria and Sweden won the slots, and Washington found itself off the commission for the first time since the panel's founding in 1947. Sudan, widely denounced for government-sponsored killings, arbitrary arrests and other abuses, obtained a seat on the panel, which monitors human rights practices and considers motions of censure.

Under a deal reached last year, the United States agreed to pay $582 million to the United Nations this year to cover outstanding dues plus $244 million next year.

Reacting to the failure of the United States to retain its seat, the Republican-controlled House voted 252-165 Thursday to pay the $582 million but to withhold the $244 million second installment until the position is restored.

The U.S. ejection, Bush said, "undermines the whole credibility of this commission - to kick the United States off, one of the great bastions of human rights, and allow Sudan to be on."

But, he said, "We have made an agreement with the United Nations, an agreement that had been negotiated in good faith, and I think we ought to pay our dues."

In New York later yesterday, Annan said he got the impression that both Bush and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell "are very supportive of the U.N."

Annan added: "The president did indicate to me that he would also want to see the dues paid without any withholding."

On Thursday, Annan said he expected Washington to regain its seat on the commission next year.

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