DURBAN, South Africa, SEPT. 3, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The United States and Israel pulled out of the U.N. Conference Against Racism in protest over the meeting´s proposed declaration that condemned Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, from Washington, D.C., denounced the draft declaration´s “hateful language.”
“Today I have instructed our representatives at the World Conference Against Racism to return home,” he said in statement released in Durban. “I have taken this decision with regret because of the importance of the international fight against racism and the contribution that this conference could have made to it.”
“The Durban conference is a farce,” Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said, according to the Associated Press. Peres said Israel had been unfairly labeled as a colonialist nation by members of the conference and charged that the Arab League had led an effort to single out Israel and blame it in unacceptable terms for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, AP said.
Soon after the U.S. announcement, several hundred demonstrators protested outside the conference center, chanting “Shame, shame, U.S.A.”
Palestinian Ambassador Salman el Herfi said the Arab delegations had been very reasonable, but the U.S. delegation had refused to compromise. “It´s sad they didn´t leave room for dialogue,” he said.
Herfi accused the United States of pulling out because of its own refusal to face up to responsibility for slavery and the injustices done to Native Americans. “Their withdrawal will not affect the success of the conference,” he said.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on a trip to Rwanda, called the U.S. withdrawal “unfortunate.” He said: “In these circumstances each country should be at the table to discuss.”
South Africa, the conference host, and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, the secretary-general of the conference, also said in separate statements they regretted the U.S. decision.