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Israel says will attend UN rights review

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Israel will attend a UN human rights review Tuesday, a top official told AFP after media reported that Germany had warned of a diplomatic backlash if it stayed away.

"We will attend" the Universal Periodic Review held by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, the official, who declined to be named, said on Sunday.

Haaretz newspaper earlier reported that Germany warned Israel of "severe diplomatic damage" if it fails to attend the meeting.

The daily said the warning had come in the form of a personal letter from German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, delivered to the Israeli embassy in Berlin on Friday "with the instruction that the prime minister receive it as soon as possible."

Netanyahu's office declined to comment on the Haaretz report.

Israel cut all ties with the UN Human Rights Council in March 2012 after the international body said it would probe how Israeli settlements may be infringing on the rights of Palestinians.

On January 29, Israel became the first country to boycott a council review of its human rights record.

Israel accuses the UNHRC of singling it out as part of the agenda of each of its three annual meetings, as well as passing a number of resolutions against it.

It has also demanded permanent membership in the UN's Western Europe and Others Group (WEOG) which could enable it to join the 47-member rights council.

"We simply demand to be treated equally like other countries," the top official told AFP.

In June, Israel expressed readiness to re-engage with the body, which later announced that a special meeting devoted to Israel would be held on October 29.

Israel has come under widespread criticism for ramping up its construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank, including in annexed east Jerusalem.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131028/israel-says-will-attend-un-rights-review