- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

GENEVA (AP) - Israel is dissatisfied with the latest draft declaration for next month’s U.N. racism meeting because the Jewish state feels it is still being singled out for criticism, its ambassador in Geneva said Wednesday.

A new version circulated Tuesday removed all direct references to Israel but affirmed support for a 2001 declaration that linked the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the problem of racism.

“In its very first paragraph, the current paper reaffirms the 2001 outcome document which singles out Israel and characterizes the conflict as one of race,” ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar said.

“This is something that is totally unacceptable to Israel,” he told The Associated Press.

Israel and Canada have said they won’t attend the April 20-25 meeting in Geneva over concerns about a possible repeat of the anti-Semitic outbursts that marred the first such meeting in Durban, South Africa, eight years ago.

The U.S. and the 27-nation EU have also threatened to boycott the event unless Muslim countries backed down from demands to name Israel and limit free speech that criticizes Islam or other faiths.

Senior U.N. officials on Wednesday welcomed the revised declaration as an opportunity to salvage the conference.

“I believe there should now be no major barrier to reaching a successful outcome,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.

Martin Ihoeghian Uhomoibhi, president of the global body’s 47-nation Human Rights Council, said he was confident that minor differences remaining in the draft could be resolved ahead of the meeting.

Leshno-Yaar said Israel’s stance could change depending on how negotiations continue over the course of the next month.

“When I will see a situation that will allow Israel to re-engage I will immediately recommend to my government to reconsider,” he said, adding: “We are far from being there.”

Algeria’s ambassador, who plays a key role in the negotiations, said it was now time for Western nations to make concessions on issues ranging from the lasting legacy of colonialism to religious hatred.

“If it’s politically incorrect to attack someone because they are Jewish, we want it to be politically incorrect to attack someone because they are Muslim too,” he told The AP.


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