British envoy defends Durban II participation

Envoy: We left during Ahmadinejad's speech in solidarity with those targeted by anti-Semitic words.

Ahmadinejad UN racism conference 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Ahmadinejad UN racism conference 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The UK ambassador to the UN in Geneva on Wednesday defended his country's decision to attend and remain at the Durban Review Conference in Geneva. "My government engaged in this conference because we share its principal objective of furthering the global fight against racism," Peter Gooderham said in a statement to the conference. He went on to refer to Monday's anti-Israel speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying, "In this hall on Monday, we witnessed first hand the type of behavior that marred the Durban World Conference Against Racism in 2001." Gooderham commended the leadership shown by the UN secretary general and the high commissioner for human rights in condemning Ahmadinejad's statement, adding that the Iranian president's words were the opposite of what the conference was seeking to achieve. "My government condemns in the strongest possible terms President Ahmadinejad's statement, which we viewed as unacceptable especially for a United Nations anti-racism forum," he continued. "My delegation left the hall not only in protest, but in solidarity with those targeted by his hateful, anti-Semitic words." He said that "in that same spirit of solidarity," Britain had decided to remain at the conference to face down the forces of intolerance. The envoy stressed that the UK was "determined to work with partners from around the world to find solutions to the problems faced by all victims of all forms of racism and discrimination today."