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Left-wing coalition wants U.S. to attend Durban II

WASHINGTON (JTA) — A coalition of left-wing groups is calling on President Obama to attend the Durban II conference on racism next month.

The group of 40 progressive organizations and more than 90 individual activists said in a letter delivered Friday to the White House that a boycott of the United Nations-sponsored conference "would be inconsistent with your policy of engagement with the international community," noting that "given the brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow in the United States, your Administration has much to contribute to that discussion."

Signers include the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild and Ramsey Clark’s radical and anti-Israel International Action Center.

The letter adds that the U.S. administration’s current position is "even more radical" than the George W. Bush administration, which "at least attended" the first Durban conference in 2001 before withdrawing, and "provides cover for other countries" that do not wish to discuss racism. It adds that the "specific objections" of the Obama administration do not warrant a boycott.

The Obama administration announced after attending a February planning meeting for the April 20-24 conference in Geneva that it would not attend Durban II unless the conference declaration removed language demonizing Israel, criticizing "defamation of religion" and reaffirming the original Durban conference declaration. A new draft declaration agreed to earlier this month met the first two conditions but not the third.

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