UN human rights chief tries to sway Israel, U.S. on anti-racism summit
Pillay: As many countries as possible should attend Durban II, no double standards will be applied.
The UN's new human rights chief said Monday she hopes to persuade the United States and Israel to drop their opposition to an upcoming global racism conference.
"My instinct would be to get as many countries to participate as possible," Navi Pillay said on her first day as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The so-called Durban II meeting in Geneva next year will review progress in fighting racism since the global body's first such conference seven years ago.
The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, because of a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and compared Zionism to racism. The resolution was never adopted.
Israeli officials say their country will likely stay away from Durban II because of anti-Semitic excesses at and around the first meeting.
The United States has not yet decided whether to take part, but used a vote in the UN General Assembly last year to protest the conference.
Libya chairs the preparation committee for Durban II, and Iran and Cuba are also involved, indicating that there will be more bashing of Israel, Itzhak Levanon, the Jewish state's former UN envoy in Geneva, told The Associated Press last month.
Canada is the only country that has explicitly said it will not take part in the April 20-25 meeting.
Pillay, a South African jurist, takes over the post of UN rights chief after serving for five years as an appeals chamber judge with the Dutch-based International Criminal Court.
"The High Commissioner should fearlessly focus on protecting the victims around the world, and that does involve speaking out against the violators as well," she said. "I intend to do that without the application of any double standards."
Pillay's office has 1,000 staff working in 50 countries with a total annual budget of some $150 million.