U.N. rights chief to visit Iran next year

ABU DHABI, April 24 (Reuters) - The top U.N. human rights official, who has expressed concern about a crackdown on dissent in Iran after last year's disputed election, said on Saturday she would pay a rare visit to the Islamic Republic next year.

Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, last month said she had talked with Iranian officials about the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran and suggested her office should visit the country.

"Next year will be my formal visit to Iran," Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge, told Reuters during a tour of the Gulf Arab region.

There was no immediate comment from Iran, which regularly dismisses international criticism over its human rights record.

U.N. diplomats said on Friday Iran had told other Asian delegations it had withdrawn its candidacy for a seat on the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council, based in Geneva. The bid had sparked criticism from human rights groups.

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