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Mbeki: S Africa Will Host 'Durban II' Racism Conf.

President Mbeki announces South Africa will host 'Durban II' racism conference, UN Watch fears repeat of 2001 debacle

Geneva, February 14, 2008 -- After South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki announced that his country will play host to a follow-up session of the discredited 2001 Durban anti-racism conference, UN Watch expressed worry about a repeat of the original debacle. The Geneva monitoring organization welcomed today's statement by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, as reported by the Associated Press, that the U.S. will not attend the meeting if it is anti-Semitic, and UN Watch called on other states to clarify their red lines.

"Next year, South Africa will play host to the Review Conference to evaluate the implementation of the decisions of the World Conference Against Racism which was held in our country in [2001]," Mbeki told the South African parliament on Friday. (Click for full speech.)

Although some observers had speculated that Mbeki meant to refer only to a regional preparatory meeting, senior sources in South Africa confirmed that the government intends to host the final 2009 Durban Review Conference.

The original 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa was supposed to combat racism, but was widely criticized as having degenerated into a festival of hate, with virulent anti-Semitic street demonstrations and physical attacks, leading the United States and Israel to walk out. Canada recently announced it will not participate in what has become known as "Durban II," citing concerns that the process was heading once again in harmful directions.

"Those of us trying to prevent a recurrence of the 2001 violence and hatred are alarmed by the prospect of holding the sequel in the same country," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

"Moreover, the text of the UN resolution on Durban II, as well as UN practice for all review conferences, require that the meeting be held within the framework of the General Assembly in New York, or at the UN's European headquarters in Geneva."

"Only the UN has the power to decide the venue," said Neuer, "and the European Union and other member states need to make clear that a breach of the rules on this question would be the crossing of a red line."

The location of the 2009 meeting is expected to be finalized at the upcoming April 2008 meeting in Geneva of the conference's planning committee. The African and Islamic blocs are expected to support South Africa's request, along with other countries including Cuba, China and North Korea.

"Apart from venue," said Neuer, "with Qaddafi's Libya as chair of the planning committee, and Ahmadinejad's Iran as a vice-chair, there are obviously many other serious concerns that need to be addressed."

ENDS

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