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Vietnam Gloats Over US UN Human Rights Commission Loss
(AP, May 4, 2001)

HANOI (AP)--The loss by the U.S. of its long-held seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission was the result of its own inadequate human rights record, an obviously pleased Vietnam said Friday.

Tensions have grown between Vietnam and the U.S. in recent months over criticisms by U.S. groups of Hanoi's human rights record, particularly in the area of religion.

"The fact that the U.N. Economic and Social Council did not elect the United States to the U.N. Human Rights Commission this time reflects the common assessment of the council member countries of the human rights situation in the United States," Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh said.

"We hold that this is also an occasion for the United States to think and reconsider its own policies on the issue of human rights," she added.

The U.S. has been a member of the commission since it was founded under American leadership in 1947. Its loss of a seat in Thursday's election was all the more striking because several countries widely accused of human rights violations, including Sudan and Pakistan, were chosen for membership.

Other reasons given for the U.S. loss ranged from poor lobbying and the absence of a U.S. ambassador to the U.N., to heavy-handed U.S. condemnation of rights abuses in China, Cuba, Vietnam and elsewhere.

On Thursday, Thanh sharply criticized the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom for recommending that Congress link approval of a trade pact with Communist Vietnam to improvements in religious conditions.

"Giving itself the right to judge the religious situation in other countries is blazon interference in the internal affairs of other countries, which is contrary to the U.N. charter and totally unacceptable," she said.

The U.S. commission, which provides recommendations on international religious issues to the U.S. president and Congress, earlier urged the government to push for action by the U.N. Human Rights Commission on religious restrictions in Vietnam.