WCAR ends as final declaration is adopted

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- The World Conference Against Racism drew to a close on Saturday with the final declaration being adopted despite bitter criticisms by opposing negotiators over the wording of the text dealing with the Middle East issue.
The declaration, which recognised the Palestinians' right to an independent state, was criticised by pro-Israeli camps that said that it was being singled out as a pariah state.
The pro-Palestinian lobby, which fought tooth and nail to have Israel declared an apartheid state, maintained that the wording in the document was not strong enough.
Other countries said the situation in the Middle East had dominated proceedings throughout the weeklong event, drawing attention away from their own issues.
These included the caste system in India and the plight of Tibetans.
However, South Africa's Foreign Affairs minister Nkosasana Dlamini Zuma, who is credited with helping to find a compromise over the Middle East issue, insisted it had to be addressed at the conference.
"The subjects we discussed were very difficult and painful to confront, but they do need to be confronted," she said at the final plenary on Saturday afternoon.
Delegates also expressed satisfaction at the eleventh-hour breakthrough over the slavery issue.
The deadlock was broken in the early hours of Saturday when European Union and African negotiators agreed that slavery be recognised as a crime against humanity, particularly the transatlantic slave trade which impacted on millions of Africans.
The declaration will now state that Africans and people of African descent, Asians and people of Asian descent and indigenous people were the victims, and continue to be victims of those practices.
Britain welcomed the final declaration with its junior Foreign Office minister Baroness Valerie Amos saying she was pleased that agreement had been reached and that the priority now was to move forward.
"The conference was an important opportunity for the international community to find ways of combating racism and xenophobia," Amos said, adding "Durban was a step in this direction and I am pleased that we have been able to reach agreement".

08 september 2001 19:54:00

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