Netherlands to boycot UN racism conference

April 19, 2009 12:00 am

, THE HAGUE, Apr 19 – The Netherlands joined the United States and Australia Sunday in refusing to attend a UN conference on racism, saying it feared the event would be abused and place religion ahead of human rights.

The Netherlands found a draft final text prepared ahead of the conference "unacceptable", said foreign minister Maxime Verhagen, as it undermined the goals of the meeting due to open in Geneva on Monday.

"The conference is too important for it to be abused for political ends and attacks on the West," the minister said in a statement.

"The Netherlands will not be a party to that."

Verhagen said countries with questionable human rights records were seeking to abuse the gathering "to place religion ahead of human rights and unneccesarily curtain freedom of speech, to negate discrimination against homosexuality, and to place Israel alone in the accused bench", said Verhagen.

The Netherlands no longer believed the conference could truly contribute to fighting this scourge, he added.

The United States and Australia have also said they would not attend the conference as they objected to the language in the draft text.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called the Holocaust a "myth", is the only prominent head of state so far scheduled to attend the Geneva conference.

The meeting is due to take stock of efforts to combat racism since the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, an event the US and and Israel walked out of claiming anti-Semitism.


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