US to boycott UN conference on racism

Other News Materials 28 February 2009 08:40 (UTC +04:00)

The United States will boycott a UN conference on racism over concerns about a document being prepared for the event that singles out Israel.

US representatives had travelled to Geneva to provide input on the document to replace an earlier controversial draft written in 2001 at a conference in Durban, South Africa. But the US representatives had not been able to overcome objections about Israel being targeted, as well as efforts to restrict freedom of speech by banning "defamation of religion."

"The document being negotiated has gone from bad to worse, and the current text of the draft outcome document is not salvageable," State Department Acting Spokesman Robert Wood said in a statement released late Friday, dpa reported.

"As a result, the United States will not engage in further negotiations on this text, nor will we participate in a conference based on this text. A conference based on this text would be a missed opportunity to speak clearly about the persistent problem of racism."

He said the US believes a document could still be reached at a conference set for April in Geneva if the draft does not single out any one country or conflict and does not include language to halt criticism of religious groups that would hamper free speech.

Israel and Canada have also said they will boycott the conference.