Durban conference enters a crucial day

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- Uncertainty still prevailed Friday over whether delegates at the Durban conference against racism would overcome their disagreements over how to deal with "reparations" for slave trade and "Zionism".
By late Thursday evening, delegates were only slightly optimistic about the pace of work of Group I, which is preparing the draft Durban Declaration.
The group had by then adopted 21 paragraphs while 12 others were still pending to complete the draft document.
There was no consensus on 36 other paragraphs, which the group was obliged to submit for arbitration by a five-member ad hoc committee.
This ad hoc committee is charged with the task of holding consultations with various groups in order to reach a consensus.
Group II, which is preparing the draft plan of action, had also not made a lot of progress.
According to Gilberto Saboia and Amina Mohamed, respectively Permanent Representatives of Brazil and Kenya at the UN Office in Geneva, said that progress was being hampered by disagreements in the choice of terms and concepts for inclusion in the document.
While everyone regrets slavery, condemns it, expresses remorse and considers it as an abomination, there is no consensus on whether slavery and the trans-Atlantic slave trade constituted "crimes against humanity".
Soboia told journalists on Thursday that "the mediation consisted of finding terms that are acceptable to all, identify past crimes (slavery, trans-Atlantic trade and colonialism), admit and remember them, regret them, apologise and accept that they continue to have negative effects on the victims".
Meanwhile, Amina Mohamed considers that "political will is, in fact, central to these consultations.
In addition to the pardon, the issue of reparations was mentioned in the Santiago preparatory document, prepared by the regional group of the Americas.
"The same applies to the African position adopted in Dakar, whose content was reiterated in a release issued by the African group in Durban on Thursday," she added.
In view of the limited time left, the pace of work depends on "the existence or not of this political will," Mrs.
Mohamed said.
By Thursday evening, that the Islamic group grouped under the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, was holding a closed- door session to assess the various reactions on issues dealing with the Middle East situation, which led to the withdrawal of the American and Israeli delegations.
All disagreements will have to be ironed out through consultations, which should be concluded Friday so that the Durban conference comes out with clear principles on how to combat racism, discrimination and xenophobia in the world.

07 september 2001 14:57:00

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