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US Decision Not to Attend Racism Conference Met by Disappointment, Anger - 2001-08-29


There is disappointment and some anger in the Arab world over the decision by Secretary of State Colin Powell not to attend the U.N. racism conference that opens Friday in Durban, South Africa.

The U.S. government opposes what it calls offensive anti-Israel language in the racism conference agenda, specifically, a planned declaration that accuses Israel of racist policies against Palestinians.

Arab Organization for Human Rights Secretary-General Mohammad Fa'eq says he is deeply discouraged by Mr. Powell's decision. "I wonder how the American citizen permits or accepts this in a country that raises the banner for protection of human rights?" he says. "This will not affect our decisions, however. It will enhance the idea of the struggle to end this racism."

The conference gets underway Friday in Durban, South Africa. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says he hopes the United States will reconsider and attend, but he said such a decision is the sovereign right of each country.

Mr. Fa'eq says it will be up to the United States and other industrialized countries to step in and enforce the fight against racism. "The world is amazed how, in this day and age, we are still practicing racism with this much severity," says Mr. Fa'eq, "especially when, on the one hand, the world's conscience is supported by U.N. resolutions, and on the other side there are real powers, including the United States, that can act and execute but who do not enforce the resolutions."

There will be U.S. representation at the Durban racism conference. A State Department spokesman said the exact nature and level of U.S. participation is being considered.

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