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U.S. Cites Anti-Semitism in Skipping UN Racism Conference

June 1 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. has announced it won’t attend the 10-year commemoration of a global UN conference on combating racism because past meetings have included “ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism.”

The Obama administration made the announcement in a letter from Acting Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Macmanus to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. The UN World Conference Against Racism will be held in New York on September 21st.

The U.S. and more than a half dozen other nations -- including Israel, Canada, Italy, Sweden -- boycotted the UN conference on combating racism held in Geneva in April 2009 because of the prospective treatment of Israel.

In a speech there, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a “repressive, racist regime,” sparking a walkout by European delegates at the conference.

Macmanus said that the U.S. voted against the United Nations resolution establishing the 2011 event because the so-called Durban process “included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism and we did not want to see that commemorated.”

The 2001 UN conference against racism took place in Durban, South Africa, and focused in large part on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Delegates produced a draft resolution that equated Zionism with racism.

“I commend the Obama Administration decision to withdraw,” Gillibrand said in a statement. “It is an insult to America that the United Nations has decided to hold the Durban III conference in New York City just days from the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks.”

Gillibrand and a bipartisan group of 17 other senators wrote to U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice on December 17, urging that the U.S. not participate in the conference.

“Of course, we would welcome the United States’ eventual return to the conference if it were to become a legitimate forum for combating discrimination -- but that is a development that seems highly improbable to us,” they said in the letter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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