Jacinda Ardern touts role in removing Iran from UN women's group

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is talking up New Zealand's involvement in the unprecedented removal of Iran from a UN women's group.

Iran has been cracking down on protests after 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police who enforce strict dress codes.

The country was ousted from the Commission on the Status of Women after a US-drafted resolution - just a year into its four-year term on the commission.

It has carried out two public executions linked to the protests and blames foreign enemies and their agents for the unrest.

The 54-member UN Economic and Social Council voted in favour of removal with 29 votes for, eight against, and 16 abstentions.

In a statement this morning, Ardern said New Zealand welcomed the "overwhelming" vote and was proud to have played a leading role in the efforts to remove Iran from the commission.

Women leaders signed an open letter by the Vital Voices Global Partnership, published in the New York Times in October, calling for the move.

She said she was the only current head of government to have done so - and New Zealand had followed up with diplomacy.

"We reached out to the UN Secretariat to discuss the steps required for this unprecedented action to remove a country from the commission," Ardern said.

"Once the wheels were set in motion, our embassy teams around the world lobbied other countries to support the removal of Iran. I personally raised the issue just yesterday with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

"Additionally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs met with the Iranian Ambassador yesterday to again register New Zealand's condemnation of Iran's use of the death penalty and execution of protesters."

In a letter to the UN Economic and Social Council on Monday, Iran, 17 other states, and the Palestinians had urged members to vote against the US proposal, to avoid a "new trend for expelling sovereign and rightfully-elected States from any given body of the international system, if ever perceived as inconvenient", Reuters reported.

Iran's UN ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani, reportedly called the US a bully, saying the vote was illegal and "might also create a dangerous precedent with far-reaching consequences".

New Zealand has also imposed a range of sanctions on some Iranians over the crackdown on protests and its alleged supply of weapons technology to Russia.