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Australia unlikely to attend Durban II

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Australia’s foreign minister said it was “most unlikely” his country would attend the U.N.’s anti-racism conference next week unless qualitative changes are made to the draft text.

Stephen Smith said Sunday that he would “see how developments unfold in the course of the preparatory review conference before making a judgment” on whether Australia would attend the Durban Review Conference April 20-24 in Geneva.

The United States, Israel, Canada and Italy have announced they are boycotting the conference, citing concerns that it would become a rerun of the original South African event in 2001, which was marred by anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Israeli and American delegates walked out of the conference in protest.

The U.S. State Department left the door open Monday for the Obama administration to “re-engage” the conference if further amendments are made to the draft text. Also Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expressed his intention to attend the conference, according to Iran’s state-run media.

Smith said he had "very grave concerns about the prospect of Australia attending.”

“I remain very gravely concerned about the prospects of the Durban Review conference being a repeat of the earlier conference, and I expect in the next week or so to be able to make a final judgment about Australia’s attendance or not," he said.

“Frankly, unless something qualitatively changes or something qualitatively different occurs, it is most unlikely that Australia will attend the Durban Review Conference in Geneva.”

Smith’s comments follow his statement last month in which he warned that Australia would not attend if “the conference was nothing more than an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic harangue and anti-Jewish propaganda exercise."

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