- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

The United States is sending a midlevel official to the U.N. racism conference in South Africa, but he will not attend the sessions unless anti-Israel language is stripped from the conference resolution, the State Department said yesterday.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Southwick left yesterday for Durban, where he was to obtain credentials to attend the conference, which opens tomorrow, spokesman Richard Boucher said.
But his primary and perhaps only task will be to try to persuade other delegates not to single out Israel for criticism.
"The extent and nature of our participation is still to be determined," Mr. Boucher said of the U.N. conference on racism.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will not attend the conference, despite entreaties by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other leaders that he participate.
As the first black U.S. secretary of state, Mr. Powell would have been a powerful symbol of racial harmony.
U.S. objections to the conference emerged after language was inserted into draft documents criticizing Israel and calling for reparations to African nations by countries that were involved in the slave trade.
President Clinton offered an apology for slavery during his visits to Africa, but neither he nor President Bush agreed to discuss compensation for slavery.
Mr. Boucher said yesterday that changes to the anti-slavery language meant it was no longer a major issue blocking U.S. participation. Anti-Israel language was.
"We are sending some people out to be on the ground because that's where all the parties are gathering," Mr. Boucher said. "They'll be out there to work to eliminate the language that the president wants us to eliminate."
The United States is against language, written by mainly Arab countries, that accuses Israel of racism and describes Israeli settlements in captured territories as crimes against humanity.
The language recalls a resolution comparing Zionism to racism adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in the 1970s and repealed in 1991 after vigorous U.S. protests. But the collapse of the Middle East peace process has revived anti-Zionist sentiment.
"I'm sure there are many other issues with the document, but the ones that preclude our full participation in the conference are the ones about Israel," Mr. Boucher said.
Based on what success it has in removing the anti-Israel provisions, the United States will decide at what level if any it will participate in the conference.
At the conference site in Durban yesterday, Jewish delegates complained of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel pressure and intimidation.
"I feel besieged. There's anti-Semitism and hate literature at the World Racism Conference. It couldn't get much worse," said Anne Bayefsky, a professor from New York's Columbia Law School, Reuters news agency reported.
"Some of the Jewish delegates are hiding their accreditation badge because it identifies them as from Israel or as Jewish. Some are considering leaving Durban altogether," she was quoted as saying.
Pamphlets circulated at the pre-conference session of nongovernmental organizations caricatured Jews, and posters carried slogans overlapping Israel's Star of David with the Nazi swastika.
Many pro-Palestinian delegates wore T-shirts with a slogan equating Israel with apartheid and colonialism, labeling it a military occupying state that kills innocent civilians.
South African police have said the safety of the 7,000 delegates at the meeting was a high priority, and security would be enforced by more than 3,000 police and army personnel.
Tibetan activists made the conference an occasion to blast China for deliberate discrimination and racism against the Tibetan people.
"A new form of apartheid is going on at the top of the world. … Tibetan culture, religion and national identity are considered a threat," Jampal Chosang, the director of a group representing Tibetan exiles in South Africa, told a meeting.


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