US opposes Durban agenda items on Zionism, slavery
- New York Times
July 27, 2001
U.S. Anti - Racism Talks Planners
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 1:18 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States threatened to back out of a United
Nations conference on discrimination if the agenda includes proposals on
slavery reparations and equating Zionism with racism. ``That is as wrong as
wrong can be,'' President Bush's spokesman said.
Bush told conference organizers that the United States wants to attend,
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Friday. But Bush also discouraged
the addition of those items to the agenda, which he said would be unwise,
``If they do, the United States will not go,'' Fleischer said. ``The only
thing that would stop the United States from going, and playing an important
role in combatting racism around the world, is if the planners of this
hijack their own meeting into anti-Semitism.''
Fleischer said the president especially objects to the Zionism proposal,
which is meant to revive a 1975 U.N. resolution that said Zionism -- the
Jewish effort to retain the biblical homeland -- is the same as racism.
Israel and the United States lodged virulent opposition and the resolution
was repealed in 1991.
``This would be a throwback to a position that was rejected 10 years ago,''
Fleischer said. ``This should not bog down into a controversy about Zionism
Fleischer said the U.S. delegation also would sit out the World Conference
Against Racism, which starts Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa, if organizers
adopt draft language addressing whether countries that prospered from
slavery and colonization should formally apologize for the suffering they
caused and pay compensation.
Mary Robinson, the U.N. human rights high commissioner, agrees with Bush's
stance and feels it would be ``a shame'' if the United States did not attend
the conference, said her spokesman, Jose Luis Diaz. But while Robinson also
agreed that slavery reparations are at odds with the purpose for the
meeting, she does think there should be discussions on the past, Diaz said.
``If you look forward, you have also to see where you come from, and I think
you have to acknowledge and in some way recognize that there were wrongs in
the past,'' Diaz said. ``I don't think the Americans would disagree with
Fleischer, however, said bringing up reparations is counterproductive. ``It
quickly becomes a point of who pays reparations to whom,'' he said.
African leaders want both an apology and reparations but Western nations,
led by the United States, Britain and Canada, have resisted that idea.
Fleischer said Bush opposes the position -- as did former President Clinton
-- and considers it a position that is our of the American mainstream.
``This conference should be focused on the future,'' Fleischer said. ``Such
looks back into a very tangled and complicated issue that's 200 years old
will detract (from) the ability of this conference to focus on the here and
State Department officials said Friday that U.S. representation at the
conference will depend on the outcome of a preliminary conference starting
Monday in Geneva. The gathering will set the agenda for the Durban
The Bush administration will send to Geneva a delegation headed by Loren
Craner, assistant secretary of the democracy, human rights and labor bureau.
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