U.S. Accused on Human Rights

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NEW YORK: Give us your poor, your hungry, your huddled masses and your child soldiers? A new report released by a top human rights group accuses the United States of "obstructionist behavior" in refusing to sign the global ban on land mines in Ottowa Thursday and in standing "virtually alone" in opposing a lesser-known ban on the use of children under 18 in the military.

The report from Human Rights Watch examined the records of 65 countries, and didn't exactly spare the rod when it came to stacking America up against the rest. "If the U.S. government persists in its dismissive posture toward international human rights law," said the group, "the international community should simply leave the United States behind."

The Pentagon was unavailable for comment on the question of child soldiers a practice that is estimated to involve 250,000 children worldwide. On land mines, however, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin stepped up to the plate, insisting that the U.S. spends more money and effort than all other nations combined on finding and destroying mines, and calling America "a beacon for human rights." Jeffersonian rhetoric aside, by abstaining from yesterday's treaty Washington is finding its claim to global leadership on human rights increasingly under fire.