EU Mulls Durban II Boycott

Ad Feedback - JERUSALEM, Israel - Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, who holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, told reporters on Monday that the EU may boycott the upcoming Durban II conference.

"[There is] a strong European call to withdraw" from the conference, slated for April 20-24 in Geneva, Schwarzenberg told reporters.

"We had a thorough discussion about the Durban II conference, and the main voices were very skeptical about the direction the final papers are prepared [to take]," he said.

"The EU will probably send its own suggestions. If the conference papers will realign with these suggestions, then we will stay. Otherwise, there is a strong call to withdraw," Schwarzenberg said.

To date, only Canada and Israel have said they will not attend.

While the Bush administration said the U.S. would boycott Durban II, President Barack Obama sent two envoys to Geneva to participate in drafting the resolution. The U.S. has yet to announce a decision on its participation in the conference.

Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said "radical changes" to drop "aggressive and anti-Semitic statements" from the resolution would have to be made before his country would participate.

Similarly, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen made similar statements.

"I am in favor of canceling participation in the conference unless the documents are changed substantially within the next hours and days," Steinmeier said.

Verhagen said the resolution, backed by the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, "limits itself to Israel-bashing, anti-Semitism, limiting freedom of speech and other dubious texts."

In December, Verhagen said the Netherlands "will not be involved in anti-Semitism."

"We will take every opportunity at this time to fight racism and discrimination, but we will not be used for a propaganda circus," Verhagen said.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, The Associated Press

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