Perth: Bowing to stiff opposition, the Commonwealth Heads of Government on Saturday deferred setting up of a human rights watchdog for the 54-nation bloc, prompting criticism by a group of statesmen who had made the proposal.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers had examined the proposal of a human rights commissioner, as suggested by the 11-member
Eminent Persons Group (EPG), but there were "broad range of concerns" over it.

Trying to put up a brave face, Gillard said the leaders had examined the proposal and suggested "further procedure" by asking the Secretary General and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) chair look into it and report back to them.

The leaders had on Friday agreed to strengthen the CMAG by empowering it to engage member nations veering off the track of democracy.

However, the EPG appeared to be unimpressed by the "inadequate action" and went public with their presentation to the leaders contending that the CHOGM "will be remembered not as the triumph it should be, but as a failure" if their recommendations were not accepted.

The 11-member EPG chaired by former Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi was invited for a retreat lunch of the leaders for an informal interaction.

The leaders accepted the EPG recommendation to have a Charter of the Commonwealth which would weave together several declarations issued by the leaders since 1971 that represent the values and principles of the association.

Gillard said the leaders have asked their foreign ministers to meet in 2012 and come out with a "clear and powerful statement" for the charter.

Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma said that the charter will reflect the aspirations of the member countries.

The leaders have also asked the foreign ministers to work overnight and examine other 102 recommendations made by the EPG. The ministerial report is expected to be taken up at the
concluding session on Monday.

There were also indications that any attempts by member nations to censure Sri Lanka on allegations of war crimes in the end stages of fight against the LTTE were unlikely to succeed.

Sharma made it clear that the CMAG has been empowered to engage democracies that were veering off the path of democracy.

The CHOGM also came out with a Perth Declaration on Food Security Principles that reflect the shared approach to addressing the challenge of food insecurity and are focused on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable, particularly women and children.

(Agencies)