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Israel has joined a group of United Nations member states calling for the institution's first gay rights declaration, an initiative which has met with resistance by an Arab-backed opposition.

The declaration that was presented Thursday at the UN General Assembly calls for decriminalization of homosexuality.

A Syrian representative read out a statement drafted by the opposition, arguing that the declaration would result in more sex crimes against children.

France and the Netherlands initiated the declaration following the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60th anniversary that was marked earlier this month.

"This is the first time in history that a group of member countries voices its objection to discrimination that is based on sexual identity and orientation," said Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen. "The issue is no longer taboo," he added.

The United States, Russia and China have abstained on the matter.

The nonbinding declaration was read out by Argentina at a plenary session, and so far diplomats promoting it have gathered 66 supporting signatures.