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Australia says may quit UN racism conference

Australia threatened on Thursday to withdraw from a UN conference on racism next month unless the wording of a document it considers hostile to Israel is dropped or substantially altered.

world Updated: Mar 12, 2009 11:04 IST

Australia threatened on Thursday to withdraw from a UN conference on racism next month unless the wording of a document it considers hostile to Israel is dropped or substantially altered.

Israel and Canada have already withdrawn from the April 20-24 World Conference Against Racism in Geneva amid fears Arab nations will use it to criticise Israel.

The United States has also said it will not attend the conference unless the wording of the final declaration is altered radically. Israel is calling for a boycott of the event.

"If we form the view that the text is going to lead to nothing more than an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic harangue, an anti-Jewish propaganda exercise, Australia will not be in attendance," Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told parliament.

Critics also object to final declaration sections they say could limit freedom of religion or speech.

The United States and Israel walked out of the first UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, in 2001, to protest against an attempted resolution comparing Zionism to racism.