Arafat to Seek World Support at Anti-Racism Conference

Published August 26th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat says he will use this week's United Nations Conference against Racism to urge the international community to support his calls for UN observers in the Occupied Territories, according to ABC.net. 

The Palestinians gave up on a Security Council resolution on such monitors after the US made strenuous efforts to block it. 

The council's non-permanent members split in response to a threat by the United States to veto any action that would have legally binding consequences for Israel. 

The Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Nasser Al Kidwa, said he had told the non-aligned caucus that "we think it would more appropriate not to proceed immediately with our draft resolution." 

Last Thursday, the acting US ambassador to the UN, James Cunningham, reiterated Washington's opposition to any legal constraint on Israel, saying: 

"Any resolution is a non-starter as far as we are concerned. We will oppose a resolution by whatever means we have to." 

In the same vein, in March, Cunningham used the US veto to defeat a draft resolution to send UN observers to the Palestinian territories. 

Nevertheless, Arafat is on a tour of Asia to drum up more support for the deployment of international observers.  

In Malaysia, he told a news conference the Palestinians plan to use the anti-racism conference in the same way, said the ABC. 

"Especially to explain for all the 150 countries who are participating in this conference, the crimes which is going on from the Israeli army, from the Israeli settlers under the protection of the Israeli army against our people, against our villages, against our farmers, against our holy sacred places," Arafat said. 

US President George W. Bush is refusing to say when he will decide whether or not to boycott the conference on racism. 

Two agenda items have upset the US president: a now-discarded Arab-backed resolution equating Zionism with racism, and a push by African nations for an apology and reparations for colonialism and slavery, according to reports.  

President Bush has told organizers the US would not attend the meeting if it involved attempts to hold Israel accountable for its policies. 

However, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte was quoted as saying that it was important to start talking about those issues now. 

According to AFP, Arab and Islamic countries have now agreed to remove controversial language implying Zionism equals a form of racism from the agenda of the August 31-September 7 meeting in Durban, South Africa. 

But they are insisting that the conference address the Palestinian issue, and countries of the Arab League confirmed just last week they would continue to press for the condemnation of Israeli practices, said the agency. 

Arafat’s last leg in the Asian tour was Bangladesh, where President Shahabuddin Ahmed told him of his country's "unflinching" support for the struggle for an independent Palestinian homeland, reported AFP. 

During brief talks with Arafat in Dhaka late Saturday, Ahmed reiterated Dhaka's commitment to the Palestinian cause. 

Arafat met Ahmed and the caretaker government chief Latifur Rahman at the airport and briefed them on the situation of the Palestinian people – Albawaba.com 

 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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