Britain to attend Durban II conference

UK "ready to consider a range of options, including walking out" if proceedings "degenerate," British Foreign Official official says.

By JONNY PAUL, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT, LONDON
April 19, 2009 20:56
2 minute read.
Britain to attend Durban II conference

fight racism banner geneva 248 88 ap. (photo credit: AP)

Britain will not be boycotting the United Nations Conference on Racism in Geneva on Monday but said that measures are in place, that includes walking out, if red lines are crossed. "We will have plans in place so that if it becomes clear that the conduct of the proceedings is degenerating and is getting to a point that we saw back in 2001 in Durban then of course we will be ready to consider a range of options, including up to walking out of the conference," a British Foreign Office official said on Friday. However the official said there was no clarity yet on what will come out of the conference but following the Durban Conference in 2001, the UK set out a series of red lines in which they would not allow to be breached. "Nothing's happened so far that would lead us to conclude otherwise but that's not to say that something couldn't happen between now and Monday to make us change our mind." The red lines relate principally to language relating to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. The Foreign Office also said that language relating the so called concept of defamation of religions. "A concept which the Organisation for Islamic Conference has been promoting now for some years which we find deeply uncomfortable from a human rights perspective," a Foreign Office official said. "I think it's fair to say that we feel that we have made pretty good progress so far and I stress the word so far, on the negotiations of the document and for that reason we remain intending to attend," the Foreign Office said. The Foreign Office also said it was concerned with the presence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who will address the conference on Monday afternoon, and hinted that the UK would walk out of his speech if necessary. "I'm sure you're aware President Ahmadinejad is going to be attending and will speak to the Conference on Monday afternoon. It goes without saying that's one speaker in particular that we are anxious about in terms of what the content of his speech might amount to." Hinting that the UK may walk out of his speech if necessary, the Foreign Office said: "Again that's a judgment we will have to make depending on just what it is he says and how he says it and what we actually think it garners in the conference room." British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was scheduled to meet with his French, German and Czech counterparts later on Sunday in order to discuss the EU position on the conference, Army Radio reported. A British Foreign Office spokesman said Britain would try to guard against "an unacceptable attempt to deny the Holocaust," which Iran has tried to eliminate any mention of in the draft. Speaking on customary condition of anonymity, the official said Britain hopes the meeting spurs a "collective will to fight racism." Jpost.com staff and AP contributed to this report


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