Foreign Policy– The Obama administration today applauded Iran’s decision to withdraw its candidacy for a seat on the 47-nation Human Rights Council, portraying it as a vindication of its decision to join the controversial U.N. rights body and try to reform it from within.

Iranian officials informed their colleagues this morning in a meeting of the Asian Group at the United Nations that they intended to pull out of the race, according to U.N. diplomats. Tehran’s retreat from the race ensures that its competitors Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives, and Qatar, will run uncontested for the four seats available in the council for candidates from Asia. The U.N. General Assembly is scheduled to hold the vote for a total of 12 new members of the Human Rights Council members on May 13.

U.S. officials said that they had mounted a quiet, behind-the-scenes campaign to block Iran’s election to the council, sending confidential demarches to the vast majority of the U.N.’s 192 members. They said they intentionally avoided a public campaign criticizing Iran’s rights record to prevent Tehran from portraying its bid as a battle with the world’s superpower. “This is a step in the right direction for the council,” said one U.S. official.

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