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U.N. forms new human rights body

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a plan to create a new Human Rights Council, despite a "no" vote from the United States.

The new human rights body will replace the discredited U.N. body that has included members such as Sudan and Zimbabwe.

Remaking the former Human Rights Commission was one of the major reforms the United States has been pushing for the United Nations, but U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States "did not have sufficient confidence to say ... the Human Rights Council will be better than its predecessor."

Despite its no vote, Bolton said, the United States would work to support the new body.

Unlike its predecessor, the Human Rights Council will have fewer members. They must be elected by direct vote and can be suspended for human rights violations.

Members must be elected by a majority, that is 96 countries, of the 191-member General Assembly. The United States had wanted a requirement for two-thirds support and what Bolton described as "exclusionary criteria to keep gross abusers of human rights off the council."

Not wanting to side with the United States, Cuba voted in favor of the council, but criticized the new body as a tool of the United States and wealthy nations.

Cuba also said it was unhappy with the provision that members could be voted off the council.

Cuban Ambassador to the U.N. Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz said it would continue to allow the "powers of the north unjustly to condemn the powers of the third world."

He also attacked the United States, saying the Human Rights Council "is a negative reflection of the dangerous unipolar world that the Bush administration is trying to legitimize."

Venezuelan Ambassador to the U.N. Fermin Toro Jimenez also said his country had "grave objections" to the Human Rights Commission but did not vote against "because we do not wish to be a part of the United States party on this."

Each nation has the right to reply to speeches by other nations and usually does, but Bolton said, "We could respond to what Cuba and Venezuela said, but on the other hand, why bother."

The vote was 170 nations in favor and four opposed. Voting against in addition to the United States were Israel, Marshall Islands and Palau. There were three abstentions, including Venezuela.

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