From correspondents in Rome, Italy
March 06, 2009 10:02pm
ITALY will not take part in an upcoming UN conference on racism because of a draft declaration that the foreign ministry says contains anti-Semitic language.
"Foreign Minister Franco Frattini decided that Italy was withdrawing its delegation because it does not approve of the draft declaration, which contains unacceptable, aggressive and anti-Semitic phrases,'' a spokesman said today.
The New York-based World Jewish Congress hailed what it called a "principled decision''.
"Italy has given a strong signal, which should be a rallying call for other EU countries,'' WJC President Ronald Lauder said.
Sending delegations to the April 20-24 conference in Geneva "would lend credibility to the efforts by some states to single out Israel for criticism ... and distract from the very real problems of state-sponsored racism in their own countries,'' he said.
The inaugural racism conference, held in the South African city of Durban in September 2001, saw a walk-out by Israeli and US delegates in protest against a bid by Arab nations to adopt a resolution that equates Zionism with racism.
Israel, Canada and the US have also vowed to boycott this year's gathering, dubbed "Durban II'', while Britain has threatened to walk away unless the language of the draft declaration is amended.
The EU is seeking to remove at least five paragraphs from the draft declaration relating to the situation in the Palestinian territories, such as an assertion that "in order to consolidate the Israeli occupation, (Palestinians) have been subjected to unlawful collective punishment, torture.''