By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 17 (Reuters) - The 193-member United Nations General Assembly on Thursday condemned human rights abuses in North Korea and Iran, a rebuke rejected by Pyongyang and Tehran.
The North Korea resolution was adopted with 119 votes in favor, 19 against and 48 abstentions and the Iran resolution received 81 votes in favor, 37 against and 67 abstentions.
General Assembly resolutions are non-binding but can carry political weight. The resolutions on human rights in Iran and North Korea have become an annual event.
The resolution on North Korea, which was drafted by the European Union and Japan, condemned the "ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights" in North Korea.
It urged the Security Council to consider referring the situation in North Korea to the International Criminal Court. However, diplomats say Pyongyang's ally China would veto such a move by the 15-member council.
North Korea told the General Assembly that it "categorically rejected" the resolution, and that it would "strongly respond to the end to the confrontation and pressure."
It said it was "a product of hostile political plot and sinister conspiracy against the DPRK (North Korea) on the part of the United States, Japan and other forces in their attempt to break down the state and social system of the DPRK."
China, Russia, Syria, Sudan, Cuba, Egypt and Iran were among the countries that voted against the resolution.
The resolution on Iran, which was drafted by Canada, criticized Tehran for cracking down on activists, journalists and dissidents and for its increased use of the death penalty.
However, it also welcomed pledges by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on "important human rights issues, particularly on eliminating discrimination against women and members of ethnic minorities, and on greater space for freedom of expression and opinion."
Iran told the General Assembly the resolution was biased and an "insincere and indefensible political move." It said the resolution "takes place at the time Iran has pursued a policy of constructive engagement with the world."
Tehran and six world powers reached a deal in July under which most sanctions on Iran will be lifted in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sudan and Syria were among the states that voted against the resolution.
Similar resolutions on human rights in Syria and Myanmar are due to be voted on at a later date. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols)
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