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Italy says no to Durban II

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ROME (JTA) — Italy is pulling out of the Durban II U.N. anti-racism conference.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini disclosed the decision Thursday in Brussels, where he is attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

According to Italian news agencies, Frattini said the decision was made because of "aggressive phrases of an anti-Semitic nature" that were "totally unacceptable" in the draft of a final document meant to be approved at the Durban Review Conference, which will take place April 20-24 in Geneva.

He said the statements in question "must be eliminated," and that Italy would not participate unless the draft document was changed.

The United States has set the same condition for participation, while Israel and Canada also have withdrawn.

The World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress have called for a boycott of the conference. WJC chief Ronald Lauder said in a statement that the meeting "was not about combating racism, but about promoting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda within the framework of the United Nations."

AJC executive director David Harris lauded Italy’s announcement.

"We applaud Italy for its principled decision not to participate in a conference that seems determined to repeat, if not exceed, the disgrace of Durban in 2001," said Harris. "We hope that fellow EU member states and others will join Canada, Israel, the U.S. and now Italy in withdrawing."

Anti-Jewish and anti-Israel vitriol were rampant at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001.

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