WASHINGTON - The United States said Thursday it saw "no reason at this point" to attend the 2009 UN conference on racism in South Africa amid fears that it will become a platform for criticising Israeli policies.
The UN's first World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in 2001 in Durban, was condemned by the United States, Canada and Israel for descending into what they claim “anti-Semitism”, a term observes say has been abused to mean any criticism of Israel, while it used to strictly refer to anti-Jewish sentiments in the past.
"Unfortunately, some bad ideas don't ever seem to die," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. "So there are now plans afoot to hold a Durban II conference that is tentatively scheduled for 2009."
Casey said preparations for the conference were launched in August.
"We haven't participated in those discussions. We have ensured that there will be no funding for those discussions. And we see no reason at this point why the United States should participate in the meeting itself," he said.
Casey said in response to a journalist's question that he did not know what conversations were taking between the United States and its allies.
But he added: "Certainly we would encourage others not to participate in this event, again, because it shows every sign in its second version of being as noxious an event as the first one was."
Last December, the United Nations General Assembly had passed a $4.17 billion budget for 2008-09, voting 142-1 for the two-year budget, which only the US voted against because of provisions for the conference.
US envoy Mark Wallace said Washington opposed the budget because it contained funding for a follow-up to a 2001 racism conference in Durban, South Africa.
The United States and Israel walked out of that conference because they said it was targeting Israel as a racist state.