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Rice dismisses reparations for slavery

Rice: "[The] conference was hijacked."  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, one of the most prominent and influential blacks in the Bush administration, dismissed the idea Sunday of reparations to compensate the descendants of slaves.

"Given the fact that there's plenty of blame to go around for slavery, plenty of blame to go around among African and Arab states, plenty of blame to go around among Western states -- I think we're better to look forward, not point fingers backward," Rice said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Rice's comments came the day after a U.N. conference on racism adopted a final declaration that cited the injustice of slavery and colonialism but recommended debt relief to African nations instead of reparations, which was considered at one point.

The first conference on racism ends with a consensus reached. Charlayne Hunter-Gault explains (September 8)

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Selected excerpts from the final declaration
Africa calls for slavery apology
In-depth: Racism around the world  

The U.S. and Israeli delegations walked out of the conference in Durban, South Africa, earlier in the week because of language they said equated Zionism -- the movement that led to the creation of the state of Israel -- with racism.

In the end, Israel welcomed the conference's final document because it did not include the language backed by Arab and Muslim delegates.

Rice said she had not seen the document, but she said the conference "wasted" time by dwelling on the past and by trying to single out Israel for criticism.

"The sad thing is that this conference was hijacked, and it didn't deal with the agenda that it should have," Rice said.

Rice said the conference should have focused on the future. Many U.S. civil rights leaders, including Jesse Jackson, have said advancing the cause of reparations is a top priority for them. Rice disagreed with that goal.

"I would hope that we would spend our time thinking about how to educate black children, particularly black children who are caught in poverty," she said.

"I would hope that we would spend our time, as the president has said, turning back the soft bigotry of low expectations against our children.

"Slavery is more than 150 years in the past, and, of course, there's a continuing stain," Rice said.

"I've said very often, slavery was America's birth defect. It was there from the beginning. But we have to turn now to the present and to the future."

• Durban: Success in the follow-up
September 8, 2001
• Arabs reject racism compromise
September 6, 2001
• Battle for racism talks compromise
September 5, 2001
• New racism declaration unveiled
September 4, 2001
• Israel branded 'racist' by rights forum
September 2, 2001
• Arafat: Summit must condemn Israel
September 3, 2001
• U.S. sending envoys to racism conference
August 30, 2001

• World Conference Against Racism
• United Nations

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