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New racism declaration unveiled

DURBAN, South Africa (CNN) -- Host South Africa has presented a compromise draft declaration on the Middle East to try to save the U.N. conference against racism from collapse.

A spokesman for the European Union which has been helping to broker a deal said that the wording put forward by South Africa "provided an acceptable basis for negotiation" but gave no further details.

Earlier, the 15-nation EU bloc had said it would like 24 hours to consider the revised statement. There was fury when a previous draft talked of Israel as a racist state.

The United States and Israel then walked out of the U.N. conference saying it had been "hijacked" by Israel's enemies. The European Union also made clear the language was unacceptable.

CNN's Tumi Makgabo talks to U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos about the U. S. withdrawal (September 3)

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CNN's Margaret Lowrie reports on the British position regarding slavery (September 3)

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A special drafting group, chaired by South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was set up on Tuesday and talks would continue overnight into Wednesday, spokesman Koen Vervaeke told Reuters.

As well as Belgium, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, Norway and the Arab League also formed part of the group, the spokesman said.

U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson, who chairs the conference, had already rejected the wording of the earlier declaration adopted by most of the non-governmental delegates at the racism conference in South Africa.

CNN Johannesburg Bureau Chief Charlayne Hunter-Gault said it was unprecedented for a secretary-general of the conference not to endorse the draft declaration.

Normally she passes it on to delegates, but the wording in Durban has caused confusion, chaos and intense exchanges.

Robinson told CNN on Tuesday that she would not endorse the document. "I have already expressed personal dismay and sadness that language... accusing of genocide... is used in that is inappropriate to this world conference."

The State Department said on Tuesday that the U.S. had "no intention at this point" of rejoining the conference.

"We are not attending. We pulled out. The U.S. Consul General in Durban is accredited but not participating," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told CNN on Tuesday. "He is reporting on the conference."

Earlier on Tuesday, Mary Robinson, secretary-general of the United Nations conference, said that the United States was still represented in the conference.

"The United States has not withdrawn and... its consul general will be a delegate and will remain here," said Robinson. "This conference is back on track. Everybody is committed to reaching agreement."

However, as far as the State Department is concerned, the U.S. had pulled out. When asked if there was any possibility that the United States would rejoin, Boucher said: "I find it very unlikely, whatever the benefit."

Boucher said Craig Kuehl, the U.S. consul general based in Durban, will monitor the conference for the State Department, just like any other conference.

However, he would not be sitting in the seats reserved for the U.S. delegation.

The draft declaration that prompted the walkout by the U.S. and Israel talked of "practices of racial discrimination against the Palestinians as well as other inhabitants of the Arab occupied territories" by Israel.

It ended: "The World Conference recognises with deep concern the increase of racist practices of Zionism and anti-Semitism in various parts of the world, as well as the emergence of racial and violent movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority."

There was also no sign on Tuesday of an accord on another issue at the conference -- African demands that former slave states make a formal apology for some 400 years of human trafficking up to the early 19th century, during which some 12 million people where shipped in chains to the Americas.

Black American leaders accused Washington of hiding behind a single issue -- the Middle East -- to duck conference themes of racism and slavery.

"It will be unfortunate if a perception were to develop that the USA's withdrawal from the conference is merely a red herring demonstrating an unwillingness to confront the real issues posed by racism in the U.S. and globally," Essop Pahad, South African minister of the presidency, said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

• United Nations
• World Conference Against Racism

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