(AFP) – Mar 17, 2009
GENEVA (AFP) — References to the Palestinian territories -- that led Western countries deeming them anti-semitic to threaten a boycott of a UN racism conference -- have been cut from the meeting's draft declaration.
Passages relating to so-called defamation of religion were also dropped. The text on this subject had been included after Islamic countries lobbied for them following a 2005 furore over Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
The European Union on Monday threatened to pull out of the Durban review conference, due to take place in Geneva from April 20 to 24, unless there were changes.
Britain had also said it would not attend unless the draft showed a "change in direction," while Canada, Israel, Italy and the United States had already said they would stay away.
The revised and drastically shortened proposal, obtained by AFP, also dropped a passage on reparations for slavery, which African countries had been seeking, and did not include a Western proposal about discrimination against homosexuals.
The new draft put together by Russian facilitator Yuri Boychenko with Belgian, Egyptian and Norwegian diplomats, now has to be examined by regional groups at the United Nations.
The EU presidency earlier cited at least five offending paragraphs on the situation in the Palestinian territories, such as an assertion that "in order to consolidate the Israeli occupation, (Palestinians) have been subjected to unlawful collective punishment, torture."
Italy rejected what it called "unacceptable, aggressive and anti-Semitic phrases."
Similar rifts dogged the original World conference against racism, xenophobia and related intolerance in the South African city of Durban, which ended on September 7, 2001 with the adoption of a declaration and plan of action.
Israeli and US delegates walked out of that conference in protest against a bid by Arab nations to adopt a resolution that equated Zionism with racism. It was not included in the final declaration.
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