Powell Will Not Attend Racism Conference as Protest against 'Anti-Israeli Language'

Published August 27th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has decided not to attend the United Nations conference on racism because of what Washington considers anti-Israeli language in the program, the Washington Post reported on Monday. 

The daily quoted a senior State Department official, who said a lower-level delegation might still attend the conference, but that Powell - the top US diplomat and highest-ranking US official ever of African-American heritage - would not. 

"There's too much offensive language in the document for the conference," the official told the Post, as quoted by AFP. 

"At this point, we don't think we can get it all out. The secretary made clear all along ... it had to be a forward-looking conference." 

The White House has long threatened that it would boycott the eight-day conference, which begins Friday in Durban, unless language equating Zionism with racism was removed from the conference document. 

Officials said a formal announcement on US attendance could come as early as Monday, according to the agency. 

The Palestinians, meanwhile, are expected to take the stage and present their cause. 

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has said he will use the conference 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 and successful efforts to block it, as happened in March.  

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."  

Two agenda items have upset the US president, said the ABC: 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 meeting.  

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


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