US sends out mixed signals after snubbing WCAR

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- The United States which has come under enormous criticism for its decision to withdraw from the World Conference Against Racism has attempted to soften the blow by claiming it had not withdrawn completely.
Claiming Arab and Palestinian groups "were hell-bent on torpedoing this conference" the US on Monday announced an immediate withdrawal from the event.
The Israeli delegation also withdrew a few hours later.
Late Tuesday, however, Ambassador Michael Southwick, head of the US delegation said Craig Kuehl, the Consul-General of the United States in Durban, will represent the US for the remainder of the conference.
Southwick said Kuehl will not simply attend in the role of an observer, but will "look after United States interests at the Conference in the normal way".
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson said it was encouraging to see the constructive spirit of the delegates to continue under the leadership of the President of the Conference, South Africa's Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
Speaking to journalists, Robinson said Zuma had convened the General Committee and proposed that all the language relating to the Middle East be withdrawn from the text.
If there was agreement on that, she would propose a way of ensuring substitute language, which hopefully would be agreed.
"It was clear overnight that all parties agreed to this course under her leadership and she has now proposed that South Africa will prepare an initial draft and she is then proposing to put together a small group", Robinson said.
Asked what possible damage the actions of the United States and Israel could cause to the international system as well as to current and future conferences, Robinson said there was still a very welcome spirit among delegates to ensure that the important work of Durban would continue and come to fruition.
"Hopefully by Friday, there will be the fullest possible support for the agreed text of the Declaration and Programme of Action", she said.
Noting that the question seemed to imply that the Conference was somehow less valid or viable, the High Commissioner said: "The Conference is continuing on course.
There is a very constructive spirit.
Everybody knows the time is short.
The work is not only continuing, but I think it's being addressed with even more seriousness of purpose and I'm encouraged by that".
Robinson emphasized that it must be remembered that although it was the third world conference against racism, Durban was different as it was the first post-apartheid conference.
The two previous conferences had been attended almost entirely by government delegates, with almost no civil society presence.
"Out of Durban must come one overriding plan, that is every country commits to adopting a plan of action, and that would include the United States and Israel", she said.
Robinson expressed the hope that some of the historical differences could be reduced to text.
It was the responsibility and duty of diplomats to try to reach agreement on difficult texts so that the Conference could move forward.
Paraphrasing the late Martin Luther King, she said: "Let's not lose sight of the prize.
It's within our grasp to have a ringing endorsement of respect for human dignity.
The voices we've heard are crying out for human dignity".
She went on: "If we don't succeed here in Durban, it won't be neutral.
The situation, in very worrying ways, including potentially in the Middle East region, will be more difficult.
"So there is a real responsibility on delegates, and there is a real will - in the civil society, in the youth, in the NGO groups - to get the leadership of an agreement out of Durban, to break new ground and to go forward on that".

05 september 2001 08:39:00




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