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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 October, 2004, 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK
US diplomats baulk at Jewish bill
By Jill McGivering
US State Department correspondent

Desecrated signs at a French Jewish cemetery in April 2003
Jewish cemeteries are sometimes desecrated in Europe
The US State Department has raised objections to a bill approved by Congress that would require it to set up an office on anti-Semitism.

The bill, the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, is expected to be signed into law soon.

It would require the State Department to appoint an envoy to monitor anti-Semitism worldwide, explore its causes, and produce an annual report.

It has had strong and vocal support from many Jewish groups.

Anti-Semitism is... adequately covered by our efforts and by all the other reporting that we do
State department spokesman

State department officials oppose the bill, saying it is unnecessary. They argue they already have an impressive track record in tackling anti-Semitism and have proved it is a priority.

Anti-Semitism is already covered in their general reports on human rights and religious freedoms, they say.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said: "Our feeling was that the issue of anti-Semitism is something that has been important to us, that we have been active on and is adequately covered by our efforts and by all the other reporting that we do."

Many Jewish groups have lobbied hard and been highly critical of the state department for its position.

Powerful community

They see the recent rise in anti-Semitism as something of acute concern which does warrant special treatment.

The state department already has other special offices, handling, for example, Tibet and women's issues.

Jess Hordes, the Washington director of the Anti-Defamation League, says: "This is a significant problem. It's a problem that arose in a fairly sudden and surprising way over the last couple of years and it does require special attention.

"If we're going to deal with it in an effective way, we need to get a better handle on the nature of the problem."

The bill has now gone to the White House. It is expected President Bush will sign it into law.

America's Jewish community is small but powerful and historically favours the Democrats.

But with the presidential election looking extremely close, their choices this time, especially in states like Florida, could be crucial.

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