Israel rejects the latest draft of the "Durban 2" anti-racism conference closing statement, a senior Foreign Ministry source said.

While all direct references to Israel and the Israel-Palestinian conflict have been removed - in an attempt to keep the European Union from boycotting - it still implicitly singles out Israel.

"The first clause in the new document reaffirms the declaration of 'Durban 1,' which calls Israel a racist state, and the change is cosmetic only. The essence remains the same," the official said. "This is a diplomatic ruse intended to blur matters and introduce criticism of Israel by the back door."

The statement will be issued at the end of the second United Nations-sponsored World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in Geneva on April 20.

The previous version of the "Durban 2" closing statement led the United States, Canada and Italy to announce they would be boycotting the conference. Other EU countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, also threatened to boycott.

The edited version was crafted by a committee headed by Russia, with the goal of preventing the boycott.

While all direct references to Israel and the Middle East have been eliminated, the Foreign Ministry says it references the closing statement from Durban 1, which was held in 2001 in Durban, South Africa. That document presented Israel as an "apartheid state," and singled out Israel as racist.

The Foreign Ministry yesterday instructed its envoys to continue asking their host countries to boycott the conference.