- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

UNITED NATIONS

Racism text altered to draw in West

GENEVA | States preparing for a highly sensitive U.N. racism conference have removed references to Israel and religious defamation from its draft declaration, potentially clearing the way for Western states to attend.

The amended text, circulated Tuesday, followed a European Union threat to boycott next month’s “Durban II” conference in Geneva unless the declaration wording was changed to keep the meeting from becoming an anti-Semitic forum.

Israel and Canada have already withdrawn from the World Conference against Racism, scheduled for April 20-24, amid fears that Arab nations will use it to attack Israel. The United States and Australia said they planned to do the same unless the wording of the previous draft was altered radically.

The latest draft declaration, a compromise 17-page text issued by Russian working group chairman Yuri Boychenko after private consultations, omits any reference to the Middle East conflict as well as defamation of religion.

The United States and Israel walked out of the first U.N. conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, to protest efforts to include passages in the text comparing Zionism to racism.

FRANCE

Sarkozy wins vote over NATO

PARIS | French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government on Tuesday won a parliamentary confidence vote prompted by his plans to rejoin NATO’s military command, which many legislators fear would compromise France’s independence.

Lawmakers voted 329 to 238 in favor of the government’s foreign policy following hours of heated debate over France’s role in NATO in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.

Conservative Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced that in exchange for returning to the alliance’s military command, France would “doubtless” be given a key command in Norfolk. Charles de Gaulle pulled France out of NATO’s military command in 1966, seeking a less U.S.-oriented policy during the Cold War.

NORTH KOREA

U.S. food aid rejected

The United States says North Korea recently rejected American food aid.

State Department spokesman Robert A. Wood says the North gave no reason for rejecting U.S. food shipments. But the decision comes amid a nuclear standoff and North Korean plans to launch a satellite into space next month.

Mr. Wood said the U.S. will work with nongovernmental organizations to help make sure the food already in North Korea gets to the needy. The North faces chronic food shortages and relies on outside aid to feed its people.

He says the U.S. delivered 169,000 metric tons of food to North Korea in 2008 and so far this year. He says the last shipment of 5,000 metric tons arrived in late January.

MYANMAR

Activists rounded up

YANGON | Authorities in Myanmar have arrested five members of detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party, a spokesman said Tuesday, a day after the U.N. called for the release of more than 2,000 political prisoners in the military-run country.

Among those arrested was Kyi Lwin, who has not been an active party member since suffering a stroke a year ago, said Han Tha Myint, spokesman of the National League for Democracy. Police took him from his home Sunday without explanation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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