04-19-2009, 10:38 AM
Join Date: Jun 2005
Boycott blow for UN racism forum
A major UN conference on racism looks to be in disarray as more countries confirmed they will not take part.
Australia and the Netherlands joined the US, Israel and Canada in boycotting the Geneva talks. The UK is sending a delegation, but no senior official.
The move is over concerns about anti-Israel and anti-Western bias. Iran's president, who has denied the Holocaust, is to address the meeting.
The talks are meant to review progress in fighting racism since a 2001 forum.
That conference, in Durban, ended in acrimony when Arab countries tried to define Zionism as racism.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said she was "shocked and deeply disappointed" by the boycotts.
"A handful of states have permitted one or two issues to dominate their approach to this issue, allowing them to outweigh the concerns of numerous groups of people that suffer racism and similar forms of intolerance to a pernicious and life-damaging degree on a daily basis all across the world... ," news agency AFP quoted her as saying.
Less than a day before it is due to get under way, the five-day Durban Review Conference is being overshadowed by political wrangling between western and Muslim nations.
“ Regrettably, we cannot be confident that the conference will not again be used as a platform to air offensive views ”
Australian government statement
The draft final declaration has been causing much heated debate.
It has been watered down, with all references to Israel and the Middle East removed.
However, at the request of Middle East nations, it still contains a clause about the incitement of religious hatred.
Many Western countries see this as a curtailment of free speech.
They are also uncomfortable with the presence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran.
He is the only major leader to accept an invitation to the forum, which he will address.
He has in the past described the Holocaust as a myth, and many UN member states don't feel they should be present if he does this again, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.
The US state department's confirmation of a boycott late on Saturday was followed by declarations from other western nations.
"Regrettably, we cannot be confident that the review conference will not again be used as a platform to air offensive views, including anti-Semitic views," said a statement from Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.
The Netherlands declared on Sunday it would not be a party to any attempt for the conference "to be abused for political ends and attacks on the West," Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said.
A meeting of EU representatives has been called for Sunday evening to evaluate the group's stand on attending, Reuter news agency reported.
However the UK will send a delegation to the conference, but without a high-level official.
It has indicated its diplomats will leave the hall if President Ahmedinejad repeats his attacks on Israel, says our correspondent.
Human rights groups and UN diplomats are dismayed that what should an important event has descended into politics, she adds.
Maybe related to Obama getting elected that the West actually feel they can stand up to this ****e.
The declaration is clearly anti-European decent, probably written by Western apologists tough.