UN Human Rights Chief: We Failed in Handling Israel-PA Conflict

In interview with Swiss daily, Human Rights Council president says UN must examine both sides of issue.

The president of the United Nations Human Rights Council conceded on Saturday that the organization had failed in its handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In an interview published by the Swiss daily "Le Temps", Doru Romulus Costea was asked whether he was satisfied with the way the council had handled the conflict, to which he answered "at this point, the council has failed."

"The Palestinian issue is very complex. It has many facets. The council must remain modest and stay within the confines of issues pertaining to it ? those of human rights. However, the council must examine the actions of both sides, not only one side," Costea said.

Prior to taking office as the president of the Human Rights Council in June, Costea served as the Romanian ambassador to Egypt Oman and Kuwait.

In the interview, Costea was asked to respond to the address given by U.S. President George W. Bush earlier this week before the UN General Assembly, in which the American leader heaped criticism on the Human Rights Council saying it attacks Israel regularly but withholds criticism on other major human rights violators around the world. Bush added that if the UN wanted to regain its credibility it must carry out reforms in the Human Rights Council.

Costea responded that "I agree with him. We must continuously improve the way the council functions. Now that the council has been renewed, it must be examined. It would be dangerous to establish a different council before giving this one a chance."

The Human Rights Council was established some 18 months ago by the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. It was established in the place of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which was dismantled after members were accused of abusing their power. The criticism against the former human rights body was based in part on the claim that the council routinely criticized Israel and arbitrarily supported resolutions that condemned Israel.

The Human Rights Council appointed to replace the defunct UNCHR has also focused on Israel's policy in the Palestinian Authority, and many of its resolutions have included condemnations of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.