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UNITED NATIONS, April 23 (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday sharply criticized the election of Iran to the United Nations' committee on non-governmental organizations, saying it was a "troubling outcome."

The harsh U.S. rebuke of the world body follows Washington's decision to deny entry to Tehran's proposed U.N. ambassador Hamid Abutalebi over his suspected links to students who held U.S. embassy workers hostage for 444 days in 1979-1981, a move Iran has vowed to fight.

"The unopposed candidacy of Iran, where authorities regularly detain human rights defenders, subjecting many to torture, abuse, and violations of due process, is a particularly troubling outcome of today's election," U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said in statement.

The committee decides on which NGOs will be accredited at the United Nations. Conservative developing nations worked to block accreditation of an international gay-lesbian NGO several years ago and the issue was taken to the General Assembly, which voted to accredit the group.

The United States was also re-elected to the 19-nation NGO committee.

"The United States will continue to use this forum to fight against those who seek to inhibit civil society's critical work, and we will continue to support the vital role non-governmental organizations play at the United Nations," Power said.
Iran's U.N. mission did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

UN Watch, an advocacy group that monitors the work of the United Nations, issued a statement expressing outrage over Iran's election.

"Today is a black day for human rights," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch. "By empowering the perpetrators over the victims, the U.N. harms the cause of human rights, betrays its founding principles, and undermines its own credibility."

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