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US opposes Durban agenda items on Zionism, slavery

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  • Josh Pollack
    New York Times July 27, 2001 U.S. Anti - Racism Talks Planners By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Filed at 1:18 p.m. ET
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 27, 2001
      New York Times
      July 27, 2001
      U.S. Anti - Racism Talks Planners
      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,
      Fleischer said.

      ``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      was repealed in 1991.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
      and racism.''

      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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