Opposition urges caution on World Racism conference

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Ahead of the August World Conference Against Racism taking place in Durban, South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has urged the Pretoria government to adopt a conciliatory posture on the pre-conference arguments.
Dene Smuts, DA spokesman on Human Rights, said South Africa has limited ability to accede to the demands of the United States, which has indicated that it would not attend if topics such as reparations for slavery and colonialism and Zionism as a form of racism, are on the agenda.
"However, South Africa must be in a position as host, chosen for its (Nelson) Mandela-era reconciliation skills, to exact concessions from the African and Asian preparatory blocks which tabled the two items," Smuts said.
She noted that "the probable absence from the conference of the US is a strong argument in South Africa's hand.
South Africa cannot in fairness be expected to carry the major costs of the conference if it risks being downgraded to a platform for posturing by players advancing arguments which serve no respectable interest and which could cause actual harm".
Smuts warned that Africa's economic prospects and its hopes under President Thabo Mbeki's Millennium Africa Programme (MAP) will be harmed by the retrospective blame shifting game.
"The resuscitation of the anti-Zionist theme is by far the more problematic of the two items.
Notwithstanding, its pro-Palestinian stance, we trust the South African government will agree that no-one who supports the faltering peace process in the Middle East can tolerate the rhetoric used in the Teheran declaration.
"It equates anti-Semitism and Zionist practice and calls the latter ethnic cleansing and a crime against humanity," she said, adding that "political opposition to the Israeli government's conducts in the West Bank and Gaza since the onset of the Intifada is one thing, but this approach is another altogether".
According to the DA official, "notwithstanding repeated undertakings by the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) over the last decade to recognise the Jewish State (Israel) created by UN Resolution in November 1947, current incitement to terror including suicide bombings from various sources has a religious racist tenor, which has led a body of opinion to believe that the destruction of the Jewish State is the real goal".
"To use a conference which is supposed to combat racism to enflame religious and ethnic hostility would be a travesty of human rights," she added.

31 july 2001 12:05:00

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