European Union countries Tuesday stepped up their opposition to Muslim attempts to shield Islam from criticism and attack Israel through a UN conference on racism. EU members were unusually outspoken in appearances before the UN Human Rights Council, saying they were worried about preparations for a global racism conference to be held next month because attention was being diverted from the real problems of racial discrimination. "I am deeply disturbed by the turn this event is taking," Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen said. "The thematic world conference is used by some to try to force their concept of defamation of religions and their focus on one regional conflict on all of us," Verhagen told the 47-member council. Israel, the US and Canada have already announced their intention to boycott the conference.