Racism Committee Adopts Final Declaration
A committee of UN delegates at a racism conference adopted a final declaration Saturday which included hard-fought compromises on the Middle East and slavery, opening the way for its endorsement by a full plenary session, said AFP.
The committee meeting, grouping some 20 countries from different regions, adopted the declaration by consensus at the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.
The declaration will now be presented to a plenary session for formal adoption.
Negotiations on how the conference should address the Middle East and slavery reparations continued through the night after negotiators failed to resolve the issues by Friday, the conference's last scheduled day.
"There is a general agreement on these two texts," South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told the main committee, joining the delegates on the podium near the end of the meeting.
African, European and Arab negotiators continued talking through Friday night, but a dejected European diplomat told AFP shortly after midnight: "the chance of success appears very, very slim."
"Today, it's very difficult; I don't know if there will be an agreement," Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, negotiating on behalf of the European Union presidency, had told a news briefing.
The United States and Israel stormed out of the conference on Monday over "hateful" disputed language in an original draft text on the Jewish state's treatment of Palestinians.
Since then, the delegations at the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, on South Africa's east coast, have been going head-to-head on both the Middle East and slavery, exasperating campaigners who had hoped to focus attention on the plight of victims of racism around the world.
As midnight approached, the United Nations rescheduled the final plenary session, originally time-tabled for 4:00 p.m. on Friday, to anywhere between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.
African calls for reparations for slavery and colonialism, as well as an apology from the countries that profited from those practices, and Arab demands for Israeli policies towards Palestinians to be condemned have bogged down the conference since its opening on August 31.
Since the US and Israeli withdrawal from the conference, South Africa, which is chairing the conference in Durban has produced two new draft texts to address the issue; the latest, presented early Thursday, as a "take-it-or-leave-it" option.
The proposed compromise, the second South African proposal rejected by the Arab states, sought to bridge the gap between the Arabs' call for the conference to condemn Israeli practices as racist and the European Union's refusal to allow the conference to take sides in the conflict.
Palestinian ambassador Salman el-Herfi said the new text was "totally unacceptable," according to Haaretz newspaper.
The text recognizes the Holocaust as unique and condemns anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
While it does not specifically criticize Israel or Zionism, the text contains references to "the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation," and it "recognizes the right of refugees to return." - Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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