US criticised for threat to boycott racism conference

Johannesburg- South Africa (PANA) -- South African papers this week reacted negatively to President George Bush's threat that the US would boycott the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban if Zionism was equated to racism.
They also criticised the US demands that reparations for slavery be removed from the agenda of the conference opening later this month.
Summing up the US attitude, the Star's columnist wrote: "It demonstrates again that, when foreign policy is involved, nothing but nothing takes precedence over Israel.
" On its part, the Business Day quoted deputy President Jacob Zuma as saying the US was setting a bad example by threatening to opt out of the conference because of unhappiness over certain aspects of the agenda.
It also quoted the South African Non-Governmental Coalition as accusing the US of "arrogance bordering on self-interest.
" The Sunday Independent reported that the South African Human Rights Commission was also unhappy with the US threat.
"It will be unfortunate and unacceptable as it will be saying to the world community, we don't want you to discuss things we don't like," the weekend paper quoted the chairperson of the SAHRC, Barney Pityana, as saying.
Other reports on the preparatory summit in Geneva suggested that the concerns of the US had been taken into account and that a second meeting next week would finalise the agenda.
An editorial in the Star summed up the feelings of South Africans who are to host the meeting.
It wrote: "This conference offered a ray of hope to racism victims.
"Logically, in order to get the correct medicine, an accurate diagnosis is required.
And for proper diagnosis, the real cause of the illness has to be established.
"There is little doubt that racism has a direct link to slavery.
If this logic is accepted, then it should be obvious that that when discussing racism, slavery and reparations should be part of that debate.
Anything less than that is papering cracks.
"Equally, considering that the Middle East crisis - clashes between the Israelis and Palestinians seemed to be escalating - it would be irresponsible to hold a conference of this magnitude and remove the issue of Zionism from the agenda.
"In this context, one main issue should be clear.
This is a UN conference and no single country should have veto powers over the agenda.
It is therefore regrettable that the US should threaten to boycott the conference in protest against the inclusion of Zionism and slavery reparations.

03 august 2001 19:11:00

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