Europeans Storm Out As Iranian Call Israel "Racist State"

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Regarding those delegates who chose to walk out on Ahmadinejad, Pillay said it would have been better had they stayed and responded to the Iranian leader. "The best riposte to this type of event is to reply, to correct and not to walk away; not to withdraw and boycott the conference. If that happens, who is going to provide a rational response to what had been said?" he wondered.

[Global: Durban Review]

HENRY GOMBYA REPORTS FOR THE BLACK STAR NEWS FROM GENEVA—Addressing the opening of the Durban Review Conference on racism Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad caused uproar when he said the formation of the United Nations and the Security Council were acts of racism.

He said the formation concretized military aggression based on the interests of powerful nations. "Although today many proponents of racism condemn racial discrimination in words and in their slogans, a number of powerful countries have been authorized to decide for other nations based on their interests and at their own discretion," the Iranian said.

At least 23 diplomats representing European countries walked off as Ahmadinejad spoke.

He blamed the Western world for the creation of a "racist country" in Palestine, a reference to Israel. Stopping short of calling for the destruction of Israel, as he has often done in the past, he accused the security council of helping and supporting Israel in the last 60 years, during which time it has given Israel "a free hand to continue their crimes."

Obviously referring to the United States, he said it was regrettable that even such a change in government has not stopped the support for Israel. "So long as a Zionist domination continues, many countries, governments and nations will never be able to enjoy freedom, independence and security," he said.

The Iranian accused western governments and the United States of continuing to support Israel despite acts of "aggression, carnage and other brutalities" against the Palestinian people.

Addressing the press soon after President Ahmadinejad’s speech, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon deplored the Iranian leader for using the floor of a UN conference to "accuse, divide and even incite the rest of the world."

Ban Ki-moon added: "This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve." Ban said he regretted that his pleas to the Iranian leader before the conference started, to "look to the future" had not been heeded. Asked whether the Iranian President had sabotaged the conference, Ban said: "It was a very troubling experience for me as the Secretary-General. I have not experienced this kind of destructive proceedings in an assembly, in a conference, by any one Member State. It was a totally unacceptable situation."

He strongly urged Iran to fully respect other members so that they could also express their views.

Ahmadinejad said it was through sheer arrogance that former U.S. President George W. Bush invaded Iraq; he claimed this attack was fuelled mainly by the influence Israel exerts on American politicians. The invasion of both Iraq and Afghanistan, he added, helped eliminate a potential and practical threat of Muslim countries against Israel. It was also influenced by what he called "complicity with the arms manufacturing giants."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said it was improper for a UN forum to be used for political grandstanding.

"Much of the speech of the President of Iran was clearly beyond the scope of the Conference, which is, as you all know, racism, racial discrimination and action plans to implement the undertakings made by the States eight years ago," Pillay said, referring to Durban, South Africa. "And this is what I would have expected the President of Iran to come and tell us: how he is addressing racial discrimination and intolerances in his country."

Regarding those delegates who chose to walk out on Ahmadinejad, Pillay said it would have been better had they stayed and responded to the Iranian leader.

"The best riposte to this type of event is to reply, to correct and not to walk away; not to withdraw and boycott the conference. If that happens, who is going to provide a rational response to what had been said?" he wondered. "There is no room for political posturing by some States because somebody who traditionally makes obnoxious statements has once again done so," Pillay said.

Speaking soon after the Iranian leader, Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store accused Iran of steering itself outside the margins of the declaration.

He said that in Ahmadinejad’s speech incited hatred and spread policies of fear. He said the declaration of the Review Conference had been carefully negotiated. Its aim was to protect people from racism. Iran’s President’s statement ran counter to the purpose of the conference.

"Iran has become the odd-man out," Store said. Still, in doing what he did, Store said Ahmadinejad was exercising his right to expression.

Ekmeleddine-Ihsanoglu, the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OICG) said his organization has never lacked the resolve to engage and work with its partners in good faith to reach a consensual outcome.

On behalf of the Africa Group, South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said Africans had firsts hand experience of the impact of slavery, the slave trade, colonialism, apartheid and genocide. She said despite this, racism continues to rear "its ugly head" in many parts of the world. Even with the best intentions, racism and related intolerances continued to be a challenge.

Susan Rice, the US Permanent Representative to the UN personally called High Commissioner Pillay to inform him of the US decision not to attend the conference.

President Obama had said although he had reasons not to participate in the Durban Review Conference, he would be engaging in efforts to address the issue of racism.

As the first African-American to become President of the United States, Obama’s decision not to attend has not gone down very well among the many millions of oppressed people worldwide.


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