Belgium urges big EU turnout for UN racism forum

19th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

Belgium said on Sunday it was urging fellow EU member states to attend a major UN conference on racism "in large numbers" despite a US-led boycott.

BRUSSELS - Belgium said on Sunday it was urging fellow EU member states to attend a major UN conference on racism "in large numbers" despite a US-led boycott.

"Consultations at the European level are underway," Belgian foreign ministry spokesman Bart Ouvry told AFP on the eve of the start of the five-day Durban Review Conference in Geneva.

"We are in favor of participating. We think the conditions are right," Ouvry added.

"We are trying to convince European partners to go in large numbers. We attach great importance to Europeans acting in concert, so if there is a decision not to go, it should be made at an EU level."

The Netherlands said Sunday it would join the United States, Israel and Australia in not attending the conference, fearing it would be "abused for political ends and attacks on the West."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the most prominent of the handful of heads of state to attend the conference, on Sunday lashed out at "global Zionism" and branded Israel a flag-bearer of racism as he set off for Geneva.

The conference is to take stock of progress since the Durban conference on racism in 2001 that saw a US and Israeli walked over a proposal to equate Zionism -- the founding ideology of the Jewish state -- with racism.

AFP / Expatica

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