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Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 00:51 GMT 01:51 UK
Racism summit seeks breakthrough
Angry demonstrators outside the conference
The US walkout has angered many
South Africa has won approval to remove the controversial draft text on the Middle East which led Israel and the US to walk out of the World Conference against Racism in Durban.

After consultation with other partners, the EU believes the draft constitutes an acceptable basis for negotiation

EU spokesman
South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma - who is chairing talks with the European Union and other countries to salvage the summit - said she was optimistic there would be a final declaration acceptable to all.

Lorraine Nesane, 15, of South Africa, was the victim of racist abuse by a white shopkeeper
Victims of racism have spoken at the conference, at times breaking into tears
Earlier, UN human rights chief Mary Robinson expressed confidence that the conference was getting back on track, despite the damage done by Monday's walkouts.

But a BBC correspondent in Durban says that, with less than four days to go, it is uncertain whether a meaningful statement can be achieved, and the conference still risks being remembered for the arguments.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma had spent Tuesday drawing up the new draft after overnight talks with Louis Michel, foreign minister of Belgium, which currently holds the EU presidency, and Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the Arab League.

We're back on course, we're steadied

Mary Robinson
The EU, a spokesman said late on Tuesday, believed the new draft "constitutes an acceptable basis for negotiation".

It has called for a "well-balanced" final document.

"Europe could not agree that the conference support only one part of the [Middle East] conflict," Mr Michel said.

Mrs Robinson, who has been one of the prime movers behind the conference, warned that if no agreements could be reached the conference would fail "those who need this conference most - the marginalised, the excluded, the hated".

Continuing discussions

But she said she now believed the conference was "back on course, we're steadied" and predicted that discussions would continue until Friday.

"Very often the experience in world conferences is it doesn't happen until the end of the negotiations... The really tough issues don't get agreed until the 11th hour," she said.

Demonstrators in Durban
Reparations for slavery is a divisive issue
Harsh language in the conference's original draft documents proposed by Arab and Islamic countries that equated Zionism with racism prompted the US-Israeli withdrawal late on Monday.

The draft document stated its "deep concern" at the "increase of racist practices of Zionism and anti-Semitism".

It talked of the emergence of "movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority".

Slavery question

But some have also linked America's departure to issues such as slavery - a question which has already divided Europe's former colonial powers.

By walking out in the middle of the conference, the US is letting down the victims of racism on all sides

Amnesty International

One South African minister, Essop Pahad, suggested the Middle East was a "red herring" used by the US to escape "the real issues posed by racism in the US and globally".

Black Americans have protested outside the conference centre at their government's withdrawal, calling it an insult to ethnic minorities in the US.

The BBC's Nick Childs in Durban
"The South Africans have produced a completely revised text"
President Abdoulaye Waye of Senegal
"We do not want reparations"
South Africa's Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad
"I believe that we can come up with a declaration that will be acceptable to all"
See also:

03 Sep 01 | Africa
Racism summit turmoil: Reactions
03 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK challenged over slavery
10 Aug 01 | Middle East
Anger over Zionism debate
03 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe split over slavery row
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