US Boycotts Racism Conference, Israel Happy

After failure to remove harsh criticism of its major ally Israel, the United States said Saturday, February 28, it will boycott a UN anti-racism conference over claims of anti-Semitism.

"We’re not going to further engage in Durban II," a senior State Department official told Agence France Presse (AFP) on the condition of anonymity.

The State Department has said the decision was taken after Washington failed to remove the harsh criticism of Israel in the proposed final statement.

During preparatory talks in Geneva on February 16, the US tried hard but in vain to change the draft statement.

"The current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said in statement late Friday.

"As a result, the United States will not engage in further negotiations on this text, nor will we participate in a conference based on this text."

Canada and Israel have said they would boycott the racism-fighting conference, scheduled for 20-24 April in Geneva.

The conference was first held in Durban, South Africa, a few days before the 9/11 attacks in the US, and against the backdrop of the second Palestinian intifada.

Israel and the US walked out of the conference in protest against attempts by Arab countries to adopt a resolution equating Zionism with racism.

Jubilant Israel

Washington’s boycott won plaudits from Israel and US Jewish organizations, which urged European countries to follow suit.

"Under the fig leaf of combating racism, this conference is blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said.

"The decision of the United States should be an example to other countries that share our values," she added in a statement from her office.

A senior member of the right-wing Likud party tasked with forming a new Israeli government after the February 10 elections, also praised the US decision.

"I congratulate the United States on its decision, which proves it is faithful to its commitments to Israel," Silvan Shalom said.

"This is further proof of the close ties that unite our two countries."

US Jewish groups also hailed the move.

"It is our hope that the European countries will follow suit and announce that they will not participate," the Conference of Presidents, an umbrella group of more than 50 Jewish organizations, said in a statement Saturday.

The United Jewish Communities also joined the chorus of praise.

"As feared, it has become increasingly clear that the only purpose of the Durban conference is to condemn the State of Israel for its very existence," it said.

"President (Barack) Obama is absolutely correct in refusing to participate in this sham."
( and Agencies)

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