US takes first step to join UN racism talks

17th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

A US delegation helps prepare for the April conference in Geneva.

GENEVA - A US delegation participated Monday in preparations for an upcoming UN-led conference on racism after leaving the previous session over claims of anti-Semitism.

US delegates made a number of suggested amendments to a resolution expected to be adopted at the April conference in Geneva, which Canada and Israel said they would boycott.

The UN's top official on human rights Navi Pillay was also to meet with the US team.

"It's a good thing. It's the first step toward the participation of the United States in the conference", said Julie de Rivero, head of Human Rights Watch's Geneva office, praising Washington's participation.

The United States said in 2008 that it would not assist in the preparatory discussions.

However, Pillay told the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination she "received a phone call from the United States ambassador who had said President Barack Obama was sending a team to assess whether the United States would participate".

On Saturday, the US State Department released a statement saying that the Obama administration would send a delegation to consider whether its participation is warranted.

"The intent of our participation is to work to try to change the direction in which the Review Conference is heading. We hope to work with other countries that want the Conference to responsibly and productively address racism around the world", the statement said.

However, the State Department stressed that its participation this time did not ensure engagement in further discussions before the conference, or in the conference itself.

"These decisions will be taken at a later date, depending on the results that we see from the negotiating process", it said.

The conference on racism is scheduled from 20-24 April at the UN headquarters in Geneva.

The conference was first held a few days before the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States in Durban, South Africa, and against the backdrop of the second Palestinian intifada.

Israel and the US walked out on the fourth day of the conference in protest against attempts by Arab nations to adopt a resolution that equates Zionism with racism.

[AFP / Expatica]

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