Bahai News - 'Progress' on racism conference Friday, 10 August, 2001, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK

'Progress' on racism conference

UN Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson has said progress has been made on wording for the World Conference against Racism in Durban, despite differences between the United States and the Arab world over how to address the Middle East question.

Negotiators in Geneva have until midnight on Friday to complete the agenda, with the US threatening to boycott the conference if anti-Israeli language remains in the document.

But Ms Robinson said that agreement had been reached on the main paragraphs and there had been "considerable progress" with regard to language.

"There is a genuine feeling that this is going to be one of the real breakthroughs in Durban," she told journalists gathered for the Geneva meeting.

Arab states have been demanding that what they call Israel's "racist policies" against Palestinians in the occupied territories should be debated at the Durban conference, which talks place at the end of August.

But US and Israeli officials said that the latest text offered by Arab delegates still used charged language about Israel.

The Geneva meeting is seen as the last chance to approve texts to be adopted by the conference.

Danger of failure

The recent upsurge in violence in the Middle East had 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The resolution was repealed in 1991 having been vehemently opposed by Israel and the United States.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, Ms Robinson warned that if Zionism was once again put onto the agenda as a racist issue, the conference would fail.

US congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, said on Thursday that attending the conference would make the US "party to the lynching of Israel".

He accused the preparatory meeting of singling out Israel at the cost of other controversial issues.

He said he wanted to know why racism against Christians and Bahai followers in some other nations were not due to be discussed, adding that other pressing geographical conflicts such as Kashmir should also be discussed.


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