Arabs dismiss US pullout as smoke screen

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- The Arab caucus to the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South African has dismissed the US withdrawal from the forum as a ploy to divert attention from other fears.
The US and its ally, Israel, explained their pull-out on failure to reach a compromise on what they regarded as "hate language" in four anti-Zionist clauses in the draft conference declaration and programme of action.
"They're using the Palestinian issue as a scape-goat because they don't want to deal with other issues," Amir Mohammad, director of the network of Arab NGOs, told a press conference on Tuesday.
Such suspicions, pundits note, come against the backdrop of a domestic US movement to bring a civil claim against the US government for reparations to be paid to African-Americans, in compensation for the crimes of the slave-owning past.
The US Congressional Black Caucus believes that if the US and the former colonial powers of Europe apologise for slavery in Durban, then the doors would be open for the litigation campaign in the US to succeed.
"The US should have stayed and listened to the voices of the victims," Mohammad said, adding that perhaps the Arab world should thank the US since, in attempting to exclude the Palestinian issue from the conference, it had actually "brought the spotlight on it".
Prior to the conference, a forum of NGOs from across the globe, which met separately for five days, branded Israel a racist state, and accused it of genocide, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.
Also important in the resolutions of the NGO meeting was a clause seeking to criminalise countries that have anti-abortion laws - a sacrosanct area for the Bush administration.
However, the NGO declaration has been challenged by NGOs from Central and Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union, which charge that the "process of compilation and adoption was neither transparent nor democratic and permeated with procedural violence".
These organisations say that the discussions were heavily restricted, and the delegates were not given the opportunity to vote on the draft documents in their entirety.
"This enables us to affirm that the documents cannot be considered adopted by the NGO Forum and are not consensual documents," they said.
Also critical of the NGO resolution were some of the world's leading human rights bodies, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), and Amnesty International.
A HRW source said it was simply not correct to use the term "genocide" to describe what is happening in Palestine, and consequently the human rights body had refused to endorse the resolution.
The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, who said that although she normally would recommend official delegations to consider an NGO resolution she would not do so this time "because of the hurtful language".
"I was disturbed and distraught by the vitriolic words," she told a Tuesday press conference, adding "it is sad that for the first time I can't recommend the governments to look to the NGO resolutions".
On Tuesday most official delegates expressed regrets that the US had left, but vowed to move on with the work.

05 september 2001 23:57:00

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