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Stepping up on human rights

March 12, 2009

Re "Obama's diplomacy test," editorial, March 9

The Bush administration gave up on the Durban II conference process entirely. President Obama sent a salvage operation team that quickly revealed that the opportunity already had been lost. There weren't any willing partners to refocus the conference on fighting racism, xenophobia and intolerance. And so the president made the hard but right choice: The U.S. should not associate itself with this effort to vilify Israel and to undermine human rights standards.

This is no test of the president's commitment to multilateralism, as your editorial asserts -- not even a pop quiz. The real test will be engagement with other nations on these difficult issues over the long term, which is why I support the administration's effort to begin engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In two years, the Human Rights Council faces a mandated five-year review. The Obama administration is already laying the diplomatic groundwork to try to engineer a badly needed overhaul of the council.

Rep. Howard L. Berman

(D-Valley Village)


The writer is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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