US to skip racism summit to ease friction with Israel

February 28th, 2009 - 1:24 pm ICT by ANI  

United Nations, Feb.28 (ANI): The Obama administration is unlikely to attend an upcoming U.N. conference on racism, as it is keen to ease friction with Israel.
Israel has asked the Obama administration to join its boycott of the conference, scheduled for April 20-24 in Geneva. Some Jewish groups have said they were worried that the tone of the meeting would be similar to the 2001 conclave that discussed Zionism as a form of racism.
American diplomats have been unsuccessful in trying to change the language offensive on Israel and other countries, a senior U.S. official said Friday.
The apparent decision is aimed at ensuring the success of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton first official visit to the Middle East next week. A U.S. delegation spent the past two weeks in Geneva, where it spoke to envoys from 30 nations to try to win concessions on the draft resolution for the U.N. World Conference Against Racism, or “Durban II.”
The Americans rejected the text, saying it should not single out individual nations for censure nor affirm other elements of the document drafted at the first anti-racism summit in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.
The official said the Americans also were uneasy with a call for reparations for past slavery.
“As the document is, it cannot be salvaged,” said a State Department official, who was authorized to speak only on condition of anonymity.
Clinton leaves this weekend for the Middle East, including a stop in Israel, to discuss, among other controversial subjects, Israeli restrictions on aid to Palestinians in Gaza in the aftermath of an Israeli offensive.
“We have no hopes of changes in the essence of the coming Durban conference,” said Israeli Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, who leads his country’’s campaign against anti-Semitism.
“We”re waiting on the U.S. to take its stand, since it will inevitably affect European and other countries, and may result in them banning the meeting as well,” he said, speaking before Friday’’s news.
So far, only Israel and Canada have announced they will boycott the conference. Some human rights advocates and many U.S. allies would like the U.S. to attend.
However, some European countries are skeptical about the value of a meeting that also looks at the history of slavery without shedding light on a practice that still exists.
A European diplomat told The Washington Times that governments also are concerned about adoption of a resolution banning the “defamation of religion.”
The United States and Israel hastily pulled out of the original 2001 conference, arguing that anti-Israel demonstrations made thoughtful dialogue impossible.
The new president has repeatedly said that the United States and United Nations would have a closer relationship and the clearest examples so far have involved human rights.
The Obama administration’’s view seems to be that it can have more influence participating in U.N. activities than criticizing from the outside. (ANI)

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