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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Heavy security for racism conference
Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Durban
Some demonstrators have already taken to the streets
Tight security will surround participants at the eight-day United Nations Racism conference which opens in Durban, South Africa on Friday.

According to police spokesman Bala Naidoo, no aircraft will be allowed to fly above the sprawling convention centre which will hold 300 delegates among them world leaders.

Security officials will have zero-tolerance for trouble makers

Ben van Deventer, Security Chief
There will be a police presence of some 3,000 officers with half of them detailed to protect foreign dignitaries including the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who has already arrived.

The security agents will also be on the look out for demonstrations which correspondents say will seek to highlight a variety of causes.

Secured manholes

It is understood that underground security will also be tight with frequent checks made to ensure that manholes are not used as quick exit routes for troublesome protesters.

South African police
South African officers have a reputation for no-nonsense policing
The South African air force will be on standby while police helicopters will protect the skies.

The security precautions are being taken to prevent the violence which has tarnished recent world meetings like that held in Italy.

Mr Ben van Deventer, security co-ordinator for the conference told Associated Press news agency: "Security officials will have zero-tolerance for trouble makers.

'Offensive language'

He said they are working very closely with protest organisers to ensure they are peaceful.

A group of Muslims is expected to demonstrate against Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. Similarly, Africans are calling for reparation for slavery.

The United States has said it would not be sending a high level delegation because of what it called "offensive language" in the conference document against Israel. It also objects to that calling for the reparation for slavery.

Reacting to the American boycott the South African vice president Nkosa Zuma said:" It is a pity. I think this question of racism is such an important one."

"Not even the United States has been able to deal effectively and eradicate racism. The United States needs this conference just as much as anybody else", AP quoted him as saying.

The BBC's Rageh Omaar in Durban
"Recriminations between Israelis and Muslims come to the fore"
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"The conference aims to produce two documents, a declaration and a plan of actions"
See also:

28 May 99 | South Africa elections
South Africa's crime crisis
29 Aug 01 | Americas
US lobbies racism conference
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