The Obama administration is to endorse a UN declaration calling for the worldwide decriminalisation of homosexuality.

President George W Bush had refused to sign the declaration during his office, making the US the only western state not to offer its support.

US officials told Associated Press yesterday that they had notified the declaration’s French sponsors that the administration wants to be added as a supporter.

They said the administration had decided to sign the declaration to demonstrate that the US supports human rights for all.

As Congress was still being notified of the decision, sources declined to be named.

“The United States is an outspoken defender of human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world,” said one official.

“As such, we join with the other supporters of this statement and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora.”

The official added that the United States was concerned about “violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals” and was also “troubled by the criminalisation of sexual orientation in many countries.”

“In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalisation on the basis of sexual orientation ‘has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom’,” the official said.

During a vote in December, 66 of the UN’s 192 member countries signed the declaration.

However, 70 members outlaw homosexuality, some of which punish breaches of the law by execution.

More than 50 nations, including members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, opposed the declaration.