Van Nuys, CA – Howard L. Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued this statement today on the news that the United States will not take part in a United Nations-led conference on racism in April known as Durban II:

“It is very unfortunate that there were no willing partners to try to refocus the Durban II conference on its stated goal to review country commitments to fight racism, xenophobia and intolerance. I welcomed and urged the U.S. effort to engage forcefully in trying to prevent the conference from singling out Israel in any way, but am disappointed that the international community is unwilling to stand up to those who are once again hijacking the conference for political expediency.

“I hope that the Administration’s announcement will galvanize like-minded countries and those who have been sitting on the sidelines to end this mindless march toward an outcome that serves none of the victims of racism, xenophobia and intolerance, and I urge the organizers of the conference to show leadership to create the conditions for universal participation in Durban II. If they cannot, I believe that the United States can and must continue its leadership in addressing these vital matters without participating in a conference that may become focused on political issues that have no place in what should be a joint struggle to end racism, intolerance and xenophobia.

“Recognizing the critical challenges our own country has faced -- and continues to address -- involving racism and other forms of intolerance, the Administration must continue to take leadership on these issues in the world community. In that connection, I look forward to working with the Administration as it looks to begin engaging with the U.N. Human Rights Council to see if it will be willing to address these and other critical human rights issues instead of the counterproductive, politically-motivated debates that prevent the Council from being a positive force in promoting human rights around the globe.”

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