Britain to boycott UN racism summit: Hague

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Britain will boycott an upcoming UN conference against racism, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday, due to fears of a repeat of anti-Semitic rhetoric that marred the two previous meetings.

London joins the United States and several other Western nations in boycotting the Durban III summit later this month in New York.

"The British government has decided that the UK will not attend the UN meeting later this month to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the World Conference on Racism," Hague said in a statement issued by the Foreign Office in London.

"That conference, and the anti-Semitic atmosphere in which it was held, was a particularly unpleasant and divisive chapter in the UN's history. It is not an event that should be celebrated."

Profound divisions on the issues of antisemitism and colonialism marked the previous Durban sessions in 2001 and 2009, with Israel and the United States walking out on the high-level forums.

Britain attended the Durban II conference in 2009 but its diplomats joined a walkout by 23 European Union delegations during a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he described Israel as "totally racist".

Hague said Britain remained "fully committed to tackling all forms of racism, both domestically and internationally", and said it would continue to work with the UN to implement many of the commitments agreed in 2001.

© 2011 AFP

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