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US Will Shun UN Racism Conference

The United States announced Saturday it will not attend a United Nations conference on racism set to start Monday in Geneva.

State Department Spokesman Robert Wood says the U.S. will boycott the conference "with regret" because of objectionable language in the meeting's draft declaration.

Wood said Saturday that despite some improvements, it seemed clear the declaration will not address U.S. concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression.

Still, he said the United States "will work with all people and nations" to put an end to racism and discrimination.

European Union members have yet to decide whether they will attend.

The five-day meeting is a follow-up to a 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa. The United States and Israel walked out of those talks over an attempt by some participants to link Zionism with racism.

Human rights groups had been urging the U.S. to take part in the conference, and called the boycott a "missed opportunity." New York-based Human Rights Watch says the draft declaration has improved considerably since negotiations first began.

Many Muslim nations want curbs to prevent what they say are insults to Islam.

Riots erupted across the Muslim world in 2006 after a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to attend the conference.

The Iranian leader has raised concerns by questioning whether the Holocaust happened and has said that Israel should be wiped off the map.

U.S. officials warned in late February the Obama administration would not attend the conference unless significant changes were made.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.