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US won't take part in racism conference

Associated Press / February 28, 2009
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UNITED NATIONS - The United States has decided not to participate in a UN conference on racism in April unless the final document is changed to drop all references to Israel and its criticism of religion, a senior US official said yesterday.

The conference is a follow-up to the contentious 2001 conference in the South African city of Durban which was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery. The United States and Israel walked out midway through that eight-day meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism - the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state - to racism.

Israel and Canada have already announced that they will boycott the upcoming World Conference Against Racism in Geneva from April 20-25, known as Durban II, but President Obama's administration decided to assess the negotiations before making a decision on US participation.

The United States has decided that it will not participate in further negotiations on the document and will not participate in the conference itself on the basis of the latest text, the US official said.

The Obama administration would reconsider its position if the document improves in a number of areas including dropping references to any specific country, references to defamation of religion which the United States views as a free speech issue, and language on reparations for slavery. It also wants a shorter text, the US official said.

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