Abu Dhabi: The top U.N. human rights official, who has expressed concern about a crackdown on dissent in Iran after last year's disputed election, said Saturday she would pay a rare visit to the Islamic Republic next year.
Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, last month said she had talked with Iranian officials about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and suggested her office should visit the country.
"Next year will be my formal visit to Iran," Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge, told Reuters during a tour of the Gulf Arab region.
There was no immediate comment from Iran, which regularly dismisses international criticism over its human rights record.
U.N. diplomats said Friday Iran had told other Asian delegations it had withdrawn its candidacy for a seat on the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council, based in Geneva. The bid had sparked criticism from human rights groups.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tehran had agreed with Asian countries to seek membership of a women's rights body instead, ILNA news agency reported.
Western governments and rights groups have criticized Tehran for its clampdown on opposition protesters after last year's re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The U.N. General Assembly condemned Iran in December for a violent crackdown on protesters after the election, which Iran's opposition says was rigged.
Thousands of protesters were arrested after the vote. More than 80 people have been sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 years. Two people tried after the election have been executed.
The authorities deny the opposition's charge of vote rigging, portraying the post-election unrest as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic state's clerical establishment.
First Published: Saturday, April 24, 2010, 23:12