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UN defends Ban over rights stance

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 25 – The United Nations defended Secretary General Ban Ki-moon against accusations by a leading rights group that he has not been tough enough on human rights.

The Human Rights Watch annual report accused the United Nations and the European Union of "cowardice" by claiming to tackle human rights abuses in places like China through soft diplomacy.

But Ban\’s office insisted that the UN leader defends rights around the world and makes a "strategic decision" on when to speak out publicly on individual cases.

The secretary general has applied public pressure where he has considered it the most likely means to achieve results, said a UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

"In each case he makes a strategic decision on the most effective to way to secure respect for HR (human rights) and accountability," said a UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

"The record shows he has achieved results through both quiet diplomacy and public pressure."

The spokesman gave the example of the freeing of a gay couple in Malawi as an example where quiet diplomacy had worked.

Ban was criticized by rights groups however for not raising the case of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in a meeting with China\’s President Hu Jintao last year.

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The UN spokesman said that Ban had raised human rights in a speech to a communist party academy later in the same tour.

HRW chief Kenneth Roth said in introducing the group\’s annual report that Ban had been too reluctant to "put pressure on abusive governments."

Ban is expected to soon announce that he will be standing for a second term as UN secretary general.

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