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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Annan appeal for unity against racism
Kofi Annan
Annan: worried at pre-conference arguments
The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appealed for an end to disputes over a key racism conference.


We need a forward-looking document that acknowledges and builds on the past, but not get lost there

Kofi Annan
He urged governments to work to make the UN's World Conference Against Racism, due to be held in South Africa in September, a success.

One of the main arguments has been over whether former colonial powers should pay compensation for the slave trade.

Addressing the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, he also said governments should recognise that the fight against racism begins at home.

"Politicians - democrats as well as dictators - use race-based appeals to seek and maintain power," he said.

Mr Annan told delegates - including French President Jacques Chirac and DR Congo President Joseph Kabila - that the internet could sometimes be a force for intolerance, "a high-tech messenger of hateful words and dehumanising imagery".

Conference dispute

Several African countries want this year's racism conference to discuss compensation for the colonial era.

But a number of Western countries - including France, Britain and the United States - have objected.

There has even been talk of a boycott of the conference by former colonial powers.

However, some developed countries have indicated that they might discuss setting up a development fund for their former colonies.

Mr Annan is keen to build consensus so that the conference will not get bogged down in disputes before it even starts.

"We need a forward-looking document that acknowledges and builds on the past, but not get lost there," he said.

The World Conference Against Racism will take place in the South African city of Durban from 31 August - 7 September.

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01 May 00 | Europe
UN links globalisation to racism
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