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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations on Monday accredited a major gay and lesbian organization that Egypt, Russia and others had tried to keep out as a group permitted to lobby at the world body.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, a U.S.-based advocacy group, had applied for "consultative status" at the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) three years ago.
Last month, a U.N. committee that accredits nongovernmental groups rejected the application after "no" votes from countries including Egypt, Russia and China. Western diplomats vowed at the time to override the committee vote.
The United States, Britain and other Western delegations urged the full 54-nation ECOSOC to vote on the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's application, which it did on Monday.
It was approved with 23 "yes" votes, 13 "no" votes and 13 abstentions.
Among those who voted "no" were once again Egypt, China and Russia, along with Niger, Morocco, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Those voting in favor included the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany, Brazil and Japan.
U.S. President Barack Obama hailed the outcome.
"I welcome this important step forward for human rights," Obama said in a statement.
"Today, with the more full inclusion of the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission, the United Nations is closer to the ideals on which it was founded, and to values of inclusion and equality to which the United States is deeply committed."
British Deputy Ambassador Philip Parham told ECOSOC that the group's presence at the world body "will add an important voice to our discussions at the U.N."
Cary Alan Johnson, the group's director, said the decision was "an affirmation that the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have a place at the United Nations as part of a vital civil society community."
"The clear message here is that these voices should not be silenced and that human rights cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," Johnson said.
Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Jackie Frank and John O'Callaghan