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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

RD/D/24
2 September 2001

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF PAST, COMPENSATION URGED BY MANY LEADERS
IN CONTINUING DEBATE AT RACISM CONFERENCE


A long line of government ministers from developing countries this afternoon and this evening told the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance that the problems facing their nations, among them, widespread poverty and underdevelopment, stemmed in part from slavery and colonialism.

Racial prejudice, several of the representatives speaking to the Conference insisted, was responsible for the diminished economic activity in their countries. The wrongs, they continued, could only be righted by clear acknowledgements of the past by the oppressing countries, and by creating schemes for compensation. A number of the speakers urged the Conference to recognize that slavery was a crime against humanity.

As the Conference's general debate continued, other high-ranking government officials touched on several additional issues, such as the situation between Israel and Palestine, rights of migrant workers, the right to decent employment, the importance of education and the role of the Internet.

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Farouk Al Shara, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria, charged Israel with racism, saying their practices of killing Palestinians was the most serious danger facing the peoples of the Middle East. If such practices continued, the idea of peace with Arabs was unattainable, he maintained.

The Conference, which opened last week and continues through Friday, has set as a goal adopting a Declaration and Programme of Action that can be used as a framework by individual countries to further promote policies of tolerance and further protect citizens from all forms of discrimination.

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Statements

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ALI MOHAMED OSMAN YASSIN, Minister of Justice of Sudan: ...

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It is imperative that this Conference address and condemn the ongoing Israeli practices of occupation based on settlement, displacement, blockade, collective punishment and extra-judicial killings against the Palestinian people, committed in flagrant defiance of the international community and international legality.

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FAROUK AL-SHARA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria: Racism is one of the most dangerous social evils as it combines the substance of all evils in the world -- a blind fanatic mind that may transform itself in a scientific fashion, or at random, under the eyes of the entire world to practices that are more horrid and appalling than anything witnessed by human beings. Many contemporary historians have registered with admiration, not shorn of surprise, the human and religious diversity in Syria, as many of the oppressed people found a generous and secure haven there. They lived, and are still living, as Syrian citizens, enjoying equality in both rights and duties.

The most serious danger facing the peoples of the Middle East is the racist Israeli practices, particularly if the Israelis believe that the killing of Palestinians and the perpetration of massacres against them, beginning with Dier Yasssin in 1948, and ending up with hunting children, shooting them at random and killing them and assassinating Palestinian leaders selectively, may all continue without accountability. The Israelis will also be wrong to believe that they can continue for long in behaving as though they are above the law and international legitimacy, ignoring the resolve of the Arabs and the belief in justice and equality among people, added to a human culture that never resigns itself to subjugation or humiliation.

If the racial practices of the Israelis were to continue, they are going to make the idea of peace with the Arabs unattainable. The rulers of Israel want to combine the strangest anomalies in history -- they want security with the continuation of occupation, and they want a pure Jewish State with the land but without Palestinians and, yet, they reject the right of Palestinians to establish their independent state on their occupied Palestinian territory. Hence, the Israeli occupation forces demolish the houses of Palestinians under the pretext that those houses are not licensed, and in the meantime, they facilitate the building of settlements for Jews coming from the furthest point on earth and grant them licenses and financial assistance in order to build on occupied Palestinian territory.

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ERNEST N. TJRIANGE, Minister of Justice of Namibia: ...

Turning to the situation in Palestine, another important issue before the Conference, let me say that the recent increase in tension has been of particular concern to the international community. It is the view of my delegation that the escalation in violence in Palestine is an issue that must be considered in this forum. With so many lives being lost in recent months and the continued violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, we here in Durban must act.

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TORKI BIN MOHAMMED AL-KABER, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia: ...

Questions of racism have to be raised in the situation of the Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people. In 1950, Israel denied Palestinian citizenship rights, and that led to the collective punishment, torture and displacement of the people. Israel is violating the Fourth Geneva Convention, and its actions are racist. Saudi Arabia wants the Conference to result in a final document adopted by consensus.

Saudi Arabia regrets the attempts to link Islam with some aggressions, including terrorism and prejudice. That should end. Islam preaches tolerance. The campaign against Islam and Muslims is politically motivated. The delegation hopes the Conference can help in overcoming that phenomenon.

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