The French minister of human rights and foreign affairs has announced that it will appeal at the United Nations for a universal decriminalisation of homosexuality.

Rama Yade also confirmed on Saturday that the International Day Against Homophobia is now officially recognised in France.

She announced plans to raise the issue of universal decriminalisation later this year when France takes over the rotating Presidency of the European Union.

From July until the end of 2008 France will speak for all EU member states at the UN General Assembly.

The French initiative envisages the EU advocate a solemn declaration from UN states to decriminalise homosexuality, rather than a vote in the UN on the matter.

The British government already advocates universal decriminalisation.

Marking the International Day Against Homophobia on Saturday Meg Munn, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said:

“There are 75 countries around the world where same sex relationships are prohibited, and nine countries where they are punishable by death.

“Despite repeated condemnation by the UN Human Rights Committee, discrimination and denial of people’s basic human rights due to sexual orientation continues.

“Human rights are universal and should not be determined by sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We are committed to promoting equality and ending the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) around the world and have developed a programme to help achieve this.

“Working with human rights activists, international institutions and non-governmental organisations and like minded governments the Foreign Office is targeting states where same sex relations are illegal, to raise our concerns and encourage them to change their laws.

“Our work concentrates on those aspects of discrimination where UK intervention may have a positive effect such as  non-discrimination in the application of human rights; decriminalisation of same sex relationships; support for LGBT activists and human rights defenders and  raising LGBT issues at international and multilateral institutions.”

In February Ms Munn conceded that there is not sufficient consensus globally to justify pursuing an international convention.

“The government consider that it can pursue equality and non-discrimination through existing human rights mechanisms, through multilateral action with like-minded partners and bilaterally,” she told MPs.