UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States targeted Iran's record on women's rights on Friday by calling a rare vote on the country's "wholly inappropriate" bid to join the executive board of the United Nations gender equality body.
The 54-member U.N. Economic and Social Council held a secret ballot on the uncontested Asia-Pacific regional slate for the board of UN Women, which was created by the United Nations in 2010 as a body for gender equality and empowerment of women.
Only 53 council members voted on Friday, diplomats said, using blank ballots on which they had to write in the country names. Samoa and United Arab Emirates got 53 votes, Turkmenistan 52 votes and Pakistan 49 votes. Iran was elected with 36 votes.
"The low vote total that Iran received today testifies to the deep concerns U.N. member states have about Iran assuming a position on the board of UN Women," the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said in a statement.
Repression of Iranian women and activists has worsened under President Hassan Rouhani despite his reformist agenda, a U.N. rights investigator said last month.
"In Iran, women are legally barred from holding some government positions, there are no laws against domestic violence, and adultery is punishable by stoning, making it wholly inappropriate that Iran assume a leadership role on women's rights and welfare at the U.N," Power said.
Power said she was "extremely disappointed" that the Asia-Pacific group had endorsed Iran's candidacy for the three-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2016.
The Iranian mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While the United States and other world powers last week agreed a framework deal with Iran on curbing Tehran's nuclear program, Washington made clear it would not lift sanctions on the country related to human rights abuses.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)