Ahmadinejad to attend ‘Durban II’

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the United Nations anti-racism conference in Geneva next week.

The news increased Jewish concerns about the conference, which is a follow up to the 2001 conference held in Durban dominated by heated rows over the Middle East.

Israel, Italy and Canada have already announced that they are to boycott the Geneva meeting, with Australia expected to follow suit. Australia’s Foreign Minister said it was “most unlikely” his country would attend . Stephen Smith had previously warned that Australia would not attend if “the conference was nothing more than an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic harangue and anti-Jewish propaganda exercise".

However Barack Obama’s administration indicated last week that America may attend and said it was pleased with progress on draft resolutions.

In 2001 American and Israeli delegates walked out over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism to racism. The conference eventually softened its criticism of Israel. It urged governments to take steps to fight discrimination and recognised the plight of the Palestinian people and the need for Israel to have security.

This year’s conference is likely to see a row over protection for religions.

Islamic countries, angry over cartoons and films attacking Muslims, want a resolution which would equate criticism of a religious faith with a violation of human rights. But European and American delegates argue that this would affect freedom of speech.

    Last updated: 12:29pm, June 7 2011