Bahai News - US may boycott racism conference
Thursday, 9 August, 2001, 21:29 GMT 22:29 UK
US may boycott racism conference
By Emma Jane Kirby in Geneva
Just a day before agenda-setting talks for the forthcoming World Conference
against Racism are due to end in Geneva, a United States congressman has
warned that he will be advising his government to boycott the conference.
Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and member of the US delegation, said
he was unable to recommend to the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell,
that the US should attend the Durban conference, while Zionism remained
on the racism agenda.
Mr Lantos said that joining the talks, which are due to begin at the end
of this month, would "make the United Sates party to the lynching of
Israel by some delegates".
Mr Lantos said the whole point of the conference - to address the past
and to face contemporary global issues of racial discrimination - was
being sidelined by "finger pointing at one specific country and one
Arab states are demanding what they call Israel's "racist policies" against
Palestinians in the occupied territories, should be debated at Durban.
The recent upsurge in violence in the Middle East has led to proposals
to revive the 1975 United Nations General Assembly resolution that
equated Zionism with racism.
The resolution was repealed in 1991 having been vehemently opposed by
Israel and the United States.
At the beginning of the negotiations in Geneva, the High Commissioner
for Human Rights, Mary Robinson warned that if Zionism was once again
put onto the agenda as a racist issue, the World Conference against
Racism would fail.
She told reporters at a news conference that she had already spoken to
the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat about the issue.
Congressman Lantos accused the preparatory talks in Geneva of singling
out Israel at the cost of putting other controversial issues on the agenda.
He said he wanted to know why the discrimination that women faced in
Saudi Arabia had not made it onto the Durban agenda and why the racism
demonstrated against Christians and Bahai followers in some other nations
were not due to be discussed.
He also urged delegates to turn their attention to other pressing geographical
conflicts such as Kashmir.
The talks are due to conclude in Geneva on Friday, when a definitive
decision from the United States is also expected.
But with so little time left and with so much to address, the prospects
for a successful outcome are dim.
Mr Lantos concluded his address with the ominous words: "While the United
States wishes to participate at Durban, the Durban conference needs the
United States more than the United States needs the Durban conference".
Mrs Robinson has called for more time to salvage the conference.
©Copyright 2001, BBC News
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