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Nov 18, 7:17 PM EST

UN committee demands that Iran stop executions

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. General Assembly human rights committee approved a resolution Tuesday expressing deep concern about rights violations in Iran, including the "alarmingly high frequency" of the use of the death penalty.

Support came from 78 member countries, with 35 voting no and 69 abstaining. Several countries have objected to the targeting of a specific nation.

The Canada-drafted resolution was approved less than a week before a Nov. 24 deadline for Iran and six world powers to reach a deal on its nuclear program, but the word "nuclear" isn't mentioned in the text.

Instead, the resolution builds on a recent report by a U.N. special investigator on human rights and points out that Iran has not allowed an investigator to visit since 2005.

Iran's representative protested that the resolution doesn't acknowledge "positive developments" since President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013.

"At the time when many parts of our region are burning in the fires of extremism," the resolution is counterproductive, the diplomat said.

The U.N. special investigator, Ahmed Shaheed, last month spoke out against Iran's second-highest rate of executions in the world. Iran has executed eight juveniles over the past year, he said.

He bases his reports on conversations with dozens of people both inside and outside the country, and it can be dangerous for some who speak with him, he said. Punishments include flogging and, in the worst cases, charges of spreading propaganda against the state.

The resolution calls on Iran to stop a range of abuses including torture, gender discrimination and the targeting of activists and journalists. It now goes to the General Assembly.

In a statement, Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi said the resolution "leaves no doubt that the appalling human rights record of the clerical regime must be referred to the Security Council for the adoption of binding and punitive measures," and she warned that the nuclear talks should not be used as an excuse to ignore Iran's human rights issues.

In a separate statement, the U.S.-based group Impact Iran said, "More must be done to hold Iran accountable for its human rights abuses."

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