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U.S. To Withdraw Immediately From Racism Conference

Aired September 3, 2001 - 13:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Oversees today, as we've told you, the United States is pulling out of a UN-sponsored conference aimed at condemning racism.

CNN's Charlayne Hunter-Gault is joining us now from where the conference is being held in Durban, South Africa, with more about that. Charlayne?

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Donna. Not only is the United States delegation pulling out, as we've just learned, we hear from our Jerusalem bureau that Shimon Peres has just announced that the Israeli delegation is pulling out.

The conference here, those who have heard the news, are reacting in stunned amazement, despite the fact that this had been threatened and anticipated, not least because the draft declaration that the government officials at this conference are working on has not been completed. And sources within the South African government told CNN just a few minutes ago that there is no offensive language such as Zionism as racism, et cetera, even in the draft that they are working on.

The South African government has issued a statement, they being the host of this conference, saying that the pullout of the United States was unfortunate and unnecessary, and that it would be unfortunate if the perception were created that this was a red herring to demonstrate unwillingness to deal with racism and other issues within the United States.

There are delegates here who are also pointing out that the United States did not attend the previous two racism conferences. And that, that had no impact for example, specifically on the last one where people were mobilized in the fight against apartheid. Nevertheless, the withdrawal from this conference of the United States and the Israelis is sure to be a blow to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who was here a couple of days ago, saying he was sure that they would be able to reach consensus, encouraging the United States to stay.

And Mary Robinson, the secretary-general of this conference, who also said that she was confident that there would be no hate language or no inflammatory language against the Israelis in the final draft document. She's expected to make a statement sometime later on this evening. But this is a stunning blow to this conference aimed at dealing with issues of intolerance and hate, and preparing a plan of action for the entire world to deal with these issues in the 21st century. Donna.

KELLEY: Charlayne, have you heard when we might see then, some of the language or a final draft that's being disputed here, and see what the language might be in the final draft?

HUNTER-GAULT: Well, you know, as we know, in the nongovernmental organization declaration, Israel was accused of genocide. There were calls for an international war crimes tribunal to look into its treatment of the Palestinians. That is a separate and -- a document prepared by nongovernmental organizations,m which has no official relationship to the document that the United Nations and the government officials working here now will be preparing. They have four more days in this conference to complete the draft.

Now, whether the United States has gotten wind -- the Norwegians, for example, were trying to work on compromise language that would produce a consensus. I think that they have given up their efforts. But there are others who are quite perplexed, because they say that why would the United States pull out now when there are four more days of this process? Donna.

KELLEY: All right, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, thanks very much from the conference there in South Africa.

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