U.S. BACKS RACE CONFERENCE STIPULATIONS
- U.S. BACKS RACE CONFERENCE STIPULATIONS
By BARRY SCHWEID
WASHINGTON (AP - 1 Sept) - With Secretary of State Colin Powell calling the signals from Washington,
U.S. diplomats at the World Conference Against Racism are trying to eliminate anti-Israel provisions
from the conference's final declaration.
If they fail, the low-level U.S. delegation will quit the conference before its windup next Friday,
Bush administration officials said.
``We have made very clear that elimination of the offensive language singling out Israel is critical
for the United States to be able to participate fully in this conference,'' State Department
spokesman Richard Boucher said Friday.
The Americans' assignment is to lobby to remove provisions advanced by the Palestinians and their
supporters that are designed to condemn the Jewish state as a colonial oppressor.
So far, two U.S. diplomats have taken turns occupying the American chair at the conference, an
administration official said Friday. They are John Blaney, charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in
South Africa; and Craig Kuehl, U.S. consul general in Durban, the site of the conference. Both are
observing deliberations but not participating
Other U.S. diplomats are working to eliminate the anti-Israel provisions.
``We continue to look to the conference participants to effectively eliminate this inappropriate
rhetoric from the documents of the conference, and we will continue to work actively to achieve
that,'' Boucher said.
Powell, the first black secretary of state, wanted to attend the conference. But when preconference
negotiations in Geneva, Switzerland, failed to knock out a provision likening Zionism, the religious
and philosophical underpinning of Israel, to racism, Powell decided to boycott.
``The secretary has kept in close touch with our representatives in Durban as they work these issues
and has spoken frequently himself with the (U.N.) secretary-general, Kofi Annan, and others,''
Members of the Congressional Black Caucus attended the conference and said in a statement: ``The
refusal of the government to send the highest ranking African-American in its history to engage the
world in a discussion of racism is disrespectful of the sacrifices of all that have suffered to get
him where he is.''
A deputy assistant secretary of state, Michael Southwick, heads the U.S. delegation, which is
assigned only the task of trying to get the anti-Israel language changed.
Israel and Canada also sent low-level delegations.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, explaining why American diplomats went at all, said President
Bush ``wanted to make every effort to clean up the language so that the racism conference did not
have language that was anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.''
``I can tell you that nobody is more disappointed that the conference took the turn it took than
Colin Powell, who very much would have liked to have gone,'' Fleischer said.
Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, attending the conference in a private capacity, said the
Palestinian delegation had agreed to drop criticism of Israel and Zionism from the declaration.
Jackson telephoned Powell to discuss developments, and Boucher said the secretary appreciated
Palestinian officials later said Jackson was overzealous, and Yasser Arafat, leader of the
Palestinian Authority, urged delegates to condemn Israel's ``colonial, racist plot'' against
Palestinians. Arafat deputy Nabil Shaath, author of the anti-Israeli provisions, said Israel
engaged in ``racist practices.''