A U.S. senator says the United States has decided not to attend next year's follow-up to the 2001 United Nations World Conference on Racism because the panel seems certain to repeat anti-Semitic and anti-Israel positions of the original gathering.
The United States and Israel walked out of that conference, which ended two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States. A State Department spokesman, Karl Duckworth, said Wednesday no decision had been made whether to stay away from the second conference.
Word that the United States would reject the conference again came from Republican U.S. Senator Norm Coleman. In a news release, Coleman said the decision came in response to a letter he and 26 fellow senators wrote to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"The U.S. walked out of this conference after the anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli activities reached such an intolerable level that it was beyond repair," the letter said. It called the conference "yet another example of a seemingly noble UN agenda item being hijacked by member states to spew anti-Semitism."
Canada already announced it is boycotting the conference, known as Durban II for the South African city hosting it. In announcing the decision last month, Canada's secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, Jason Kenney, said, "We'll attend any conference that is opposed to racism and intolerance, not those that actually promote racism and intolerance."
The Bush administration showed its distaste for the conference in December by refusing to accept a consensus vote on a preliminary UN budget for 2008-2009 and demanding a recorded vote. The vote was 141 to 1, the no vote coming from the United States.
A separate recorded vote on including the Durban II language in the budget also passed, but the United States, Canada and 38 other countries voted against it. Iceland, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland abstained.
In the letter, Coleman and the others had particularly bitter words for governments and people being appointed to run Durban II. "Libya was appointed to chair the Executive Committee of the Preparatory Committee; a vice chairman is Iran, despite the fact that this country's leader has called for the destruction of Israel and been a leader on one of the most despicable forms of racism - Holocaust denial."
In 2001, Rice, then President George W. Bush's national security adviser, explained on television why the Americans and Israelis had walked out: Participants spent far too much time trying to condemn Israel and single it out, and I think the United States made the right decision to leave.
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