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U.N. racism conference closes with muted tone toward Israel

DURBAN, South Africa (BP)–The United States, which pulled out of the United Nation’s World Conference Against Racism, said although the final declaration is flawed, it is still “worth having a look at,” CNSNews.com reported Sept. 10.

The conference in Durban, South Africa, adopted a final declaration Sept. 8 after securing difficult compromises on the Middle East and the issue of slavery.

The declaration recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and an independent state, as well as the right of all Middle East countries, including Israel, to security. However, it refrained from any explicit condemnation of the Jewish state.

Israel and Washington withdrew from the conference at its outset Sept. 3 over what they described as “hateful” language aimed at the Jewish state, which has fought a Palestinian uprising for almost a year that has left 770 people dead, most of them Palestinians.

The European Union had threatened to follow Israel and the United States in leaving the conference if the final text included items that equated Zionism with racism.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faruk Al-Shareh almost torpedoed the conference at the 11th hour by trying to indirectly condemn Israel as racist.

Despite this, compromise was reached after tough and acrimonious talks.

The U.S. State Department said it is looking forward to examining the final text when it becomes available in the next few days.

“We are confident that our withdrawal was correct and hope that the decision had some effect on a better, but still flawed, result,” State Department spokeswoman Susan Pittman said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres praised the break up of what he called the anti-Israeli majority at the U.N. racism conference.

“For the first time, the anti-Israeli majority … was broken, faced with our willingness to reach peace and through the obstinate defense of our principles,” Peres said in a statement Sept. 8. He said an anti-Israeli stance had become a “reflex” action at international summits.

“We thank the United States who stood beside us and we equally note the cooperation of European Union countries as well as the support of the countries of Latin American, Asia, Eastern Europe and Central and North America,” he said.

Meanwhile angry Muslim nations lashed out at western powers, accusing them of manipulating the conference to ease their guilt over the Holocaust.

The Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, Nasser Alkidwa, accused some of the delegates or using “tricks and harmful tactics” to get their way.

“The elevation of the Holocaust above other crimes against humanity by the European Union created the impression that some had a monopoly over pain and suffering,” he said.

Despite this he admitted that he was satisfied with the attention drawn to the Palestinian plight.

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said in her closing briefing that at times she thought the conference would fail.

“I did think at times were on the precipice. What has come out is a powerful tool to use in the struggle against racism,” she said.

The conference was extended more than 24 hours beyond the Friday evening deadline.

On Friday night the European Union and the African block went head to head on African demands for an apology and compensation for colonialism and slavery.

In a compromise reached at 4 a.m. on Saturday, western countries agreed to acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade were “appalling tragedies in the history of humanity.”

They also agreed that the declaration should include a clause which states profound regret for the suffering caused by colonialism.

Western powers agreed they had a “moral obligation” to take “appropriate and effective measures” to reverse the consequences of slavery and colonialism.
Klusener is a correspondent with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Mark Klusener