Durban II text still opposed by Israel

Revised UN draft reaffirms text endorsed in 2001 summit, which singled out Israel for criticism.

Durban 248.88 ap (photo credit: )
Durban 248.88 ap
(photo credit: )
The United Nations released its final revisions to the outcome document for its conference against racism late Friday, but kept intact sections that the US said would cause it to boycott the meetings. The document retained its reaffirmation of the text endorsed during the first World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001, which singled out Israel for criticism. That 2001 meeting, which ended four days before 9/11, was dominated by quarrels over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery. Several delegates condemned Israel and anti-Israel demonstrations broke out at a parallel conference of non-governmental organizations. The United States and Israel walked out midway through the Durban conference over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism to racism. The US has joined Israel in objecting to the reference, as well as language declaring that "incitement to racial discrimination" is illegal, which America fears would limit free speech. The changes made Friday followed a similar draft that came out Wednesday which also failed to omit the problematic text. "We still need to see more progress and we haven't seen it yet," US State Department spokesman Robert Wood told The Jerusalem Post before Friday's version was released. The US has indicated it wouldn't attend the conference, dubbed "Durban II," unless the necessary changes to the text were made, though Wood announced no final decision on Friday. After the new version came out, US State Department press officer Andy Laine said that the administration had nothing further to say on the new document for the time being. The conference opens in Geneva on Monday. Israel, Canada and Italy have announced they will boycott the gathering, and the EU is weighing its participation. Among the high-ranking officials who will address the conference's opening session on Monday - which coincidentally falls on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day - is Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel is among the many prominent defenders of Israel who will be present. Only around a half dozen non-governmental organizations are allowed to speak at the conference itself, said UN spokesman Damodaran. Some NGOs will take part in panel discussions and other events on the sidelines of the meeting, he added. The rest of them have set up a number of demonstrations and meetings outside the United Nations. Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report