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US Group Requests High-Level Delegation for Racism Conference

A coalition of U.S. civil rights groups says the United States government should send a high-level delegation to the U.N. Conference on Racism and should not be reluctant to discuss the issue of reparations for trans-Atlantic slavery.

The coalition, which includes U.S. non-governmental organizations accredited to the conference, says the issue of reparations for the enslavement of Africans is certainly a legitimate subject for discussion. The United States and some other developed nations are concerned that an international recognition of the legitimacy of reparations could open the door to virtually limitless claims.

But Wade Henderson, director of the U.S. Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, told reporters the U.S. government's position is hypocritical because it has recognized reparations as legitimate in other circumstances.

"In one case our country did support reparations on behalf of Japanese-Americans who were interned in the United States during World War II and we think that establishes a very important precedent," said Mr. Henderson. "Secondly, our government assisted Jewish victims of the Holocaust in making claims against Germany and against some of the corporate powers in Germany to receive recompense for past practices. We believe those precedents should also be applied to the current circumstance of African-Americans and others whom were victimized by the trans-Atlantic slave trade."

Mr. Henderson and other members of the civil rights coalition said the United States should send a high-level delegation to the U.N. conference to demonstrate a commitment to addressing the issues of racism and other types of intolerance. The week-long conference opens in Durban, South Africa on August 31. The U.S. State Department says the decision on whether to send a delegation to Durban, and at what level, will be announced next week.