Diplomats and observers said that Russia and China objected to the holding of a female Fiji candidate - who is a strong defender of human rights - the position of President of the United Nations Human Rights Council, causing a stalemate over the position, at a time when Washington could seek to join the Council Again after withdrawing from it in 2018.

The presidency of the Human Rights Council rotates annually between regions of the world, and diplomats say that any differences over the position of the president of the Council are resolved quickly and amicably.

The crisis means that the Council - the only body among governments that promotes and protects human rights around the world - will resume its work in Geneva next week without a president for the first time in its 15-year history.

Council decisions are not binding but have political weight and can be a reason for investigations into allegations of violations.

Observers and diplomats said that Russia, China and Saudi Arabia objected to the selection of Nuzha Shamim Khan, head of the Fiji delegation to fill the position, or supported other candidates who appeared at the last moments.

"We see that Saudi Arabia, China and Russia support a candidate from Bahrain and oppose Fiji," said Phil Lynch, director of the International Service for Human Rights.

The delegations of Fiji, Russia and Saudi Arabia did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.