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Bush defers on Durban II

The Bush administration is deferring a decision on U.S. participation in the second U.N. Durban Conference against Racism.

“There has been no decision as to future participation because it will be held in 2009,” Gregg Rickman, the top U.S. official dealing with anti-Semitism, said at a hearing Thursday of Congress’ Helsinki Commission.

Canada formally opted out of the 2009 reconvening of the conference, pointing out that the inaugural conference in ’01 devolved into an anti-Semitic shout fest hijacked by states hostile to Israel, notably Iran.

Pressed by members of the commission – the congressional body that monitors human rights overseas – Rickman said the Bush administration did not think it appropriate to second-guess its successor.

The United Nations has yet to decide on a venue for Durban II.

In the second of two Helsinki hearings on anti-Semitism, the commission on Thursday looked at the United States and the former Soviet Union. Last week it addressed anti-Semitism in Europe.

In addition to Rickman, the State Department’s special envoy on the topic, witnesses included representatives of the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and NCSJ: Advocates on behalf of Jews in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Eurasia.

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