(photo credit: Associated Press)
Libya is one of two candidate countries to head the first preparatory committee for the United Nations 2009 anti-racism conference in Durban, according to Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch in Geneva.
The first anti-racism conference in the South African city of Durban in 2001 was widely condemned as anti-Semitic, with delegations from both Israel and the United States walking out in protest.
Neuer warned that the second conference was likely to be no different, given that a planning committee set to meet in Geneva later this month would likely be headed by Libya and would have among its 15 member body delegates from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
In the last few days, Armenia has also stepped forward as a candidate to lead the committee, said Neuer, but he said he was still concerned that Libya would head the committee in the end.
"Choosing Colonel [Muammar] Gaddafi to head a world anti-racism conference is like appointing a pyromaniac to be town fire chief," said Neuer. "How can a regime that consistently ranks as one of the most notorious violators of human rights, a government that sentenced to death five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor only because they were foreigners and therefore easy scapegoats be charged with promoting fundamental principles of human dignity and equality?" Neuer wanted to know.
He said that the problems with the first anti-racism conference in 2001 started with items inserted into the agenda by preparatory committees, such as one that met in Teheran.
"The UN is dangerously on course to repeat the mistakes of the past," said Neuer.
The UN's Geneva office was closed on Sunday and could not be reached for comment.