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Monday, April 20, 2009

Western Countries Boycott Racism Forum

Washington has confirmed it will boycott a UN forum on racism in Geneva next week because of differences over Israel and the right to free speech. The state department said the proposed text of the conference's guiding document remained unacceptable despite having been amended significantly. The US and Israel quit a similar forum in Durban in 2001 when its draft document likened Zionism to racism. Current language about "incitement to religious hatred" also alarms the US.

Italy and Germany were the last to confirm Sunday they will not participate in a major United Nations conference on racism that opens Monday in Geneva, which is being boycotted by the United States and Israel, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described Israel as the "flag bearer of racism."

The growing western boycott of the Durban Review Conference comes amid fears that it will be the forum for a lambasting of Israel. Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden earlier said they were boycotting the event. The U.S. and Israel boycotted the original Durban conference in 2001 over an attempt to equate Zionism with racism. Belgium's foreign ministry said earlier Sunday that consultations were continuing with a view to getting as many EU member states as possible to participate.

The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, called a meeting for Sunday evening to evaluate the bloc's stance on attending. France announced that it will attend. Britain, however, will send a delegation to the conference, albeit without a high-level official. However the Vatican, which has observer status at the United Nations, confirmed Sunday that it would attend.

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