U.S. reconsiders boycott of Durban II anti-racism summit
Iranian media says Ahmadinejad to attend follow-up to 2001 meet which U.S., Israel walked out on.
The Obama administration is reconsidering its planned boycott of a controversial United Nations racism conference that is deeply opposed by Israel and Jewish groups and will be attended by Iran's president, the State Department said late Monday.
In a move likely to upset its staunchest Mideast ally and its supporters, the department said the administration was pleased by a diplomatic push to revise an objectionable document that the meeting will adopt and suggested it could attend the meeting if the efforts succeed.
In February, after attending preparatory meetings for the follow-up conference, the Obama administration said it would not attend Durban II unless the meeting's final document was changed to drop references to Israel, defamation of religion and demands for reparations for slavery.
A State Department spokesman said Monday that there had been substantial improvements to the draft but that there were elements that continue to pose significant concerns, including the affirmation of the Durban declaration and a portion on incitement to religious hatred that the U.S. sees as suggested support for restrictions on freedom of expression.
The U.S. State Department later said in a statement, "We hope that these remaining concerns will be addressed, so that the United States can re-engage the conference process with the hope of arriving at a Conference document that we can support."
Israel and Canada already have announced they will boycott the meeting.
Israel, which was deeply concerned when the administration sent a delegation to the preparatory meeting, has lobbied hard for the U.S. to stay away from the conference.
Ahmadinejad to attend Durban 2 anti-racism conference
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the United Nations anti-racism conference in Geneva in late April, Iran's state-run media reported Monday.
The IRNA website said Monday "the review conference is the follow-up to the 2001 First World Conference on Racism in South Africa which strongly condemned the racist policies of the Zionist regime."
Israel, Canada, and Italy have both decided to boycott the conference, while the United States is reportedly considering taking part.
The conference, to be held in Geneva next month, is a follow-up to the contentious 2001 conference in the South African city of Durban which was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery.
The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through that eight-day meeting over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism - the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state - to racism.
An original draft of the closing statement for the conference stated that Israel's policy in the Palestinian territories constitutes a "violation of international human rights, a crime against humanity and a contemporary form of apartheid." A later draft was released that removed criticism of Israel.