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Belarus denied seat on UN Human Rights Council

UNITED NATIONS (New York), May 17 (RIA Novosti) - Massive human rights violations in Belarus prevented the former Soviet country from securing a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council Thursday as envoys of the 192 UN states voted to take in 14 new members.

At a General Assembly session in New York City, only 78 UN nations - 19 short of a simple majority - supported Belarus' bid to join the 47-seat council, whose rotating membership is granted to countries upholding the "highest standards" of human rights.

Belarus applied for one of two seats available for Eastern Europe, along with Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. But only Slovenia qualified, with as many as 168 ballots cast in its favor.

In the run-up to the May 17 vote, several international rights organizations as well as opposition leaders in Belarus itself called on the UN General Assembly to vote the country's candidacy down.

In December 2006, the General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution sharply criticizing the Belarusian government for its human rights record, specifically for its failure to hold free and fair elections last March and for the routine harassment and detention of political opponents, civil society activists, and journalists.

The country's leader, Alexander Lukashenko, was once famously dubbed by Washington as "Europe's last dictator."

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