Israel says will boycott U.N. forum on racism
2 hrs 5 mins ago
Reuters – Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni speaks to the media after her meeting with President Shimon Peres …
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Wednesday that Israel had made a final decision not to participate in a U.N. forum on racism and urged other countries to boycott what she termed an "anti-Israel tribunal."
The United Nations said it regretted the decision.
The World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in Geneva in April, is a follow-up to a 2001 summit in Durban, South Africa on the same issues.
Israel and the United States walked out of the first conference in protest over draft texts branding Israel as a racist and apartheid state -- language that was later dropped.
In a speech to visiting U.S. Jewish leaders, Livni said she announced last February that Israel would not participate in the 2009 meeting unless it was clear it would not be used "as a platform for further anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic" activity.
She said documents prepared for next year's forum showed it was "turning once again into an anti-Israeli tribunal, singling out and delegitimizing the State of Israel."
As a result, she said: "I decided that Israel will not participate and will not legitimize the Durban-2 conference."
"We call upon the international community not to participate in this conference, which seeks to legitimize hatred and extremism under the banner of the fight against racism," Livni added.
In August, officials from 21 African countries held talks ahead of the Geneva conference and adopted a text which recommended it discuss, among other issues, "the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupations."
Canada has said it will not take part in the Geneva meeting. The United States, Britain, the Netherlands and France have said they may stay away if Israel's relations with Palestinians stands to eclipse all else.
Some countries are also concerned that some Middle Eastern states will try to use the conference to push a declaration that could stifle free expression by labeling criticism of religions as defamatory.
The office of U.N. human rights commissioner Navi Pillay said it regretted Israel's decision.
"Given the critical importance of the issues under discussion at the conference, broad participation is essential," U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe said in New York, speaking for the Geneva-based office.
"These ... are issues which affect all countries and millions of individuals around the world on a daily basis."
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip at the United Nations; editing by David Wiessler)