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The BBC's Fergus Nicoll
"The question of compensation is trickier still"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 00:06 GMT 01:06 UK
Slavery row stalls racism conference
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson
Ms Robinson urged delegates to find common ground
A dispute pitting the United States and European nations against African countries has slowed preparations for a major United Nations conference on racism.

South Africa is leading an African bloc that wants the conference to label slavery "a crime against humanity" - a description which the UK, Spain and Portugal reject.


Progress on drafting the final declaration has been slower than many had hoped

Mary Robinson
The European countries and the US are also resisting African calls for some kind of reparations for the slave trade.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson - who will host the anti-racism conference in the South African city of Durban later this year - urged delegates to "look for common ground" at the final meeting to prepare for the conference.

"We can take the narrow view and argue every detail right up to Durban," she said on Monday.

"The alternative is to follow the path that has been the hallmark of every successful world conference - to look for common ground."

Compromise possible

Possible child slave is taken off the MV Etireno
There are still concerns about slavery in Africa today
The BBC's Fergus Nicoll said that the Europeans and Africans will probably be able to work out a compromise on wording, perhaps calling present-day human trafficking a crime.

It may be more difficult to reach consensus over compensation.

The US has threatened to withdraw funding for the conference if it includes a call for reparations.

The event - officially called the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance - will be held from 31 August to 7 September.

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See also:

16 Apr 01 | Africa
West Africa's 'little maids'
06 Aug 99 | Africa
West Africa's child slave trade
28 Sep 00 | Africa
The bitter taste of slavery
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