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Groups assail U.N. conference

A U.N. conference under way in Geneva is as bad as expected, watchdog groups say.

In reports from Switzerland, two major U.N. watchdog groups said the conference – the first in a series of preparatory meetings for the follow-up to 2001’s notorious anti-Semitic Durban conference against racism – was following the path of its predecessor.

Anne Bayefsky, editor of the Web site Eye on the UN, called the meeting’s opening session “a slap in the face to every state and nongovernmental organization that really cares about equality and non-discrimination.”

Egypt, speaking Monday on behalf of the African Group, singled out Israel for its “continued occupation of Palestine and violations arising therefrom.” Pakistan, speaking for the Organization of the Islamic Conference, urged the conference to “move the spotlight on the continued plight of Palestinian people” and accused critics of waging a “smear campaign” against the gathering. The conference is intended to combat racism and discrimination.

Even before the conference began, critics warned that the process could lead to a repeat of the 2001 Durban conference, where an event ostensibly aimed at fighting discrimination became a platform for the dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda and the singling out of Israel.

In an article last week in the Boston Globe, Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, warned that all indications are that the conference “will mimic both the format and script” of Durban.

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