US boycotts UN tribute to late Iran president

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States boycotted a United Nations tribute to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday because it said he was "involved in numerous, horrific human rights abuses" and that the world body should instead stand with the people of Iran.

Raisi, a hardliner who had been seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed when his helicopter came down in poor weather in mountains near the Azerbaijan border on May 19.

The 193-member U.N. General Assembly traditionally meets to pay tribute to any world leader who was a sitting head of state at the time of their death. Speeches were made by countries and regional groups during the 50 minute tribute to Raisi.

"The United States will not attend today's United Nations tribute event for President Raisi in any capacity," said Nate Evans, spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

"Raisi was involved in numerous, horrific human rights abuses, including the extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners in 1988," he said. "Some of the worst human rights abuses on record took place during his tenure."

As a young prosecutor in Tehran, Raisi sat on a panel that oversaw the execution of hundreds of political prisoners in the capital in 1988, as Iran's eight-year war with Iraq was coming to an end, rights groups say.

Iran's U.N. mission in New York declined to comment on the U.S. boycott of the tribute.

In a short statement, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the General Assembly that Raisi led Iran at a challenging time for the country, the region and globally.

"The United Nations stands in solidarity with the Iranian people and in the quest for peace, development and fundamental freedoms," Guterres said.

Iran's U.N. Ambassador Amir Saeid Iravani reflected on the "profound impact" of Raisi and Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, who was killed in the same helicopter crash.

"They were not just figures of authority, but also a symbol of hope, resilience and the enduring power of good governance and diplomacy," Iravani told the General Assembly. "We remain committed to upholding the principles of peace, security, justice and multilateralism that they tirelessly supported."

A presidential election to replace Raisi has been scheduled for June 28.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Nick Zieminski)