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2001-09-07

South Africa Seeks to Break Deadlocked Negotiations As U.N. Race Conference Enters Final Day; a Leading Member of the ANC Assesses the Results

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The U.N. race conference entered its final day today, deadlocked over two issues: an apology and reparations forslavery and centuries of colonialism, and the Middle East.

Negotiations ran late into the night, but delegates were unable to reach an agreement on the issue of reparations andan apology, despite the mediation of Brazil and Kenya.

African nations and NGOs from around the world want an unambiguous apology, the recognition that slavery andcolonialism constitute crimes against humanity, and reparations. Sources close to the talks told the Agence-FrancePress that Europeans are worried about the implications of an apology for possible lawsuits and are offeringexpressions of "regret", "sorrow", "deep remorse" or "abhorrence".

On Thursday, Namibia’s Herero people said they had brought a $2 billion suit in a U.S. court against three firms foralleged German colonial atrocities a century ago.

Marathon negotiations have also failed to minimize differences between the European and Arab groups which havepersisted since the U.S. and Israel walked out of the conference on Monday over "offensive" language on the MiddleEast.

Since then South Africa, which is chairing the conference in Durban, has produced two new draft texts to address theissue; the latest, presented early yesterday, as a "take-it-or-leave-it" option.

Disputed wording in original conference documents produced during preparatory meetings had referred to "ethniccleansing" of Palestinians, described Israel as an apartheid state engaged in a crime against humanity, and referredto "the racist practices of Zionism".

The latest text, produced by South Africa’s Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, expresses concern for the"plight of the Palestinian people under foreign occupation", but avoids any explicit condemnation of Israel.

Arab sources said the Arab caucus at the conference had rejected the text in its current form and wanted it amended.

Guest:

  • Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, head of International Affairs for the African National Congress, and anindependent expert for the Committee to End Discrimination Against Women.

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