U.S. shuns racism meeting

The Associated PressApril 19, 2009 

— The Obama administration will boycott "with regret" a U.N. conference on racism this week over objectionable language in the meeting's final document that could single out Israel for criticism and restrict free speech, the State Department said Saturday.

The decision will likely please Israel and Jewish groups that lobbied against U.S. participation. But the move upset human rights advocates and some in the black community who had hoped that President Barack Obama would send an official delegation.

The administration had wanted to attend the April 20-25 meeting in Geneva, although it warned in late February that it would not go unless significant changes were made to the draft text.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the text retains elements that suggest support for restrictions on free speech. Concern is high that the meeting may descend into heated debate over Israel that marred the last such gathering eight years ago.

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