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Monday, 3 September, 2001, 06:19 GMT 07:19 UK
Europe split over slavery row
A delegate with flags at the UN conference
Some African states and black Americans want an apology for slavery
European Union countries are divided on whether to apologise for the transatlantic slave trade.

British diplomats say they are sticking to the line that European countries agreed on before the beginning of the United Nations World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa.

Protesters in a march against racism in Durban
Reparations for slavery is a divisive issue
This is to accept that the slave trade was deeply regrettable, but not to apologise or to agree that it was a crime against humanity.

Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands are believed to be in sympathy with Britain. All four were heavily involved in the slave trade.

Other countries that were not, led by Belgium, which holds the European Union presidency, want to move closer to African and black American demands for an apology.

Britain and the others fear that an apology would put them into unchartered territory in terms of international law.

It would certainly increase demands from some African countries and many black American groups that those countries that traded in slaves should pay reparations.

The question of reparations for slavery has been one of the most divisive issues at the conference.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"There is a fear that an apology will open the floodgates for litigation"
See also:

09 Aug 01 | Americas
US may boycott racism conference
04 Aug 01 | Africa
New warning on racism conference
30 Jul 01 | Africa
Rows threaten racism conference
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