The resolution was approved by the General Assembly's social, humanitarian and cultural committee by a vote of 63 to 35 with 60 abstentions.
A vote by the committee, which includes all U.N. members, is tantamount to formal adoption by the General Assembly, which last year adopted a similar resolution by 74 to 32.
While welcoming open debates and other human rights improvements in Iran, the resolution expressed concern at executions, torture, punishments that include stoning and amputation, arbitrary closure of publications, discrimination against women and the absence of due process of law.
It welcomed the government of President Mohammed Khatami's assurances that it had stopped threatening the life of British author Salman Rushdie. But it expressed concern over an increase in a bounty on his head.
An Iranian religious group, the Khordad Foundation, in October raised its $2.5 million bounty on Rushdie by $300,000, ignoring Khatami's promises to the contrary.
An edict to kill Rushdie was issued by the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who called Rushdie's book, "The Satanic Verses," blasphemous.
The resolution, sponsored mainly by Western nations including Britain And the United States, said U.N. members were "gravely concerned at the unabated pattern of persecution" against the Baha'i, the country's largest religious minority who are regarded as heretics by Iran's Islamic rulers.
According to Baha'i sources, the community in Iran numbers about 300,000 and more than 200 members have been executed since the 1979 Islamic revolution. In an apparent reference to Khatami's efforts toward reform often opposed by hard-line clerics, the resolution welcomed the "political will" to move Iranian society to a more tolerant and more peaceful condition.
But it said "while some sectors are already benefiting from this progress, significant violations of human rights continue to occur."
In response, Iraqi envoy Mostafa Alaii sharply criticized the resolution for being counter-productive and "out of touch with realities of Iranian society. He said the committee was "fixated in the past" and ignorant of positive developments. Alaii accused the sponsors of political motivations with little regard for improvements and cooperation. "Promotion of human rights is a noble objective. But misusing them for political purposes, need I nunciate, is a disservice to humanity at large. Ends do not and should not justify means," he told the committee before the vote.
The Iranian National Council of resistance, an exile political umbrella group, said the U.N. Security council, which can adopt binding decisions, should intervene against Iran.