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Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
Arab states shun racism text
Anti-Israel protesters
Arab delegates want to condemn Israel
Arab states at a global racism conference in South Africa have rejected a compromise text on the Middle East aimed at preventing a walk-out by the European Union.

They are not accepting the text 'as is'

Ronnie Mamoepa, South African foreign ministry spokesman
The proposed draft called for recognition of the Palestinian people's plight, but had removed language that branded Israel a racist state.

It also tried to take into account the EU's refusal to allow the conference to take sides in the conflict.

This is the second South African proposal rejected by the Arab states.


"This text is completely unacceptable," said Palestinian Ambassador Salman el-Herfi.

A Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman told the BBC the revised text marked real progress, although European delegates were still not entirely happy with it.

The South Africans had made it clear the document was not open to further negotiation. They had called it a "take it or leave it" text.

Mordechai Yedid, head of Israeli delegation
Israel walked out of the conference in protest

A copy of the revised draft reportedly said: "We are concerned about the plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation and we call for a just and comprehensive lasting peace in the region in which all people shall co-exist and enjoy equality, justice and internationally recognised human rights and security."

The document also said the Nazi Holocaust should never be forgotten and recognises the right of the Palestinians to an independent state.

The United States and Israel walked out of the conference on Monday over original wording condemning Zionism, leaving European, Arab and African countries to try and hammer out a text.

The Europeans too have threatened to withdraw over language that they see as vindictive towards Israel, and over demands for reparations for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

No apology

Battles over the conference programme began months ago, with Israel and its allies concerned about language equating Zionism - the political movement supporting the existence of a Jewish state - with racism.

African countries are demanding an apology for slavery
The US and Europe, meanwhile, objected to calls for an apology or reparations for the slave trade.

On Wednesday, delegates heard about another subject, Aids.

The head of the United Nations' Aids programme, Dr Peter Piot, told the conference that racial prejudice is helping the spread of the disease around the world and called for legislation banning discrimination against HIV sufferers.

The BBC's Nick Childs in Durban
"There must still be grave doubt"
Alan Baker, head of the returned Isreali delegation
"This conference has been hijacked"
See also:

05 Sep 01 | Africa
Conference split on slavery issue
05 Sep 01 | Africa
Racism summit seeks breakthrough
04 Sep 01 | Americas
Compensation for slavery
03 Sep 01 | Africa
Racism summit turmoil: Reactions
03 Sep 01 | UK Politics
UK challenged over slavery
03 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe split over slavery row
03 Sep 01 | Africa
Focus on the slave trade
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