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OSCE Conference Appeals for Tougher Measures Against Anti-Semitism - 2003-06-20

Delegates attending a conference on anti-semitism sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, want governments to take more action to combat racial and ethnic hatred. The first high-level OSCE conference on anti-semitism ended with appeals to member countries to fight prejudice through education, law enforcement and "zero tolerance." Academics at the meeting said the internet allows anonymous groups or individuals to spread anti-semitism more widely. Delegates want legal changes to end the anonymity of internet users.

The U.S. delegation was led by the former mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, who described the conference as "an historic step". He said it was necessary that problems such as anti-semitism were "brought out of hiding".

Mr. Giuliani headed the U.S. delegation at the request of President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The former mayor said he had often dealt with hate crimes in New York City but was confident that prejudice could be overcome.

"The best way to do that ultimately is getting people to know each other, getting them to cooperate with each other and emphasizing the things that are common for them and that's the way we have tried to do it so that if we had an act of anti-Semitism we would have a broad range of people, not just from the Jewish community but from other communities, speak out against it. If we had an act of violence against someone who was Muslim, we would have people from the Jewish community, the Christian community and other groups speak out and then you start to build bonds between people," he said.

Mr. Giuliani stressed that this feeling of belonging as a community was particularly strong after the terrorist attacks on New York on September 11 2001.

The OSCE plans a follow-up conference next year in Berlin to assess incidents of anti-semitism in member countries. Mr. Giuliani said Germany today has a thriving Jewish community. Mr. Giuliani said the U.S. had what he described as some "concerns" about the present Austrian government such as its recent decision to cut funding to the Israeli cultural community.

Around 400 delegates attended the conference. The OSCE has 55 members including the United States, Canada and Russia.