WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell would like to attend a U.N. conference against racism, but his participation depends on whether anti-Zionist and other objectionable phrases are removed from a conference document, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
"Our participation depends on how some things turn out," Boucher said Wednesday. "We are very concerned about some of the issues that are being raised in the preparatory part of the conference."
Last week, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the United States also opposed demands for compensation from countries that benefited in the past from slavery and colonialism.
In Geneva, where negotiators are working on the anti-racism document, Israeli Ambassador Yaakov Levy said there was no progress on removing anti-Zionist phrases.
Assistant Secretary of State Lorne Craner heads a U.S. delegation that will go to Geneva later this week "to work hard" on the negotiations, Boucher said.
"We would like to go to the conference. The secretary has said he would like to go to the conference," Boucher said.
Rep. Tom Lantos, D-Calif., who will represent Congress in the delegation, said he had been assured by Middle Eastern and U.N. diplomats that phrases equating Zionism with racism will be removed.
But, Lantos said, the campaign against Israel will take the form of denouncing Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza as a form of colonialism.
"They are using the settlements issue as the technique through which to paint Israel as an imperialistic, colonial, suppressive, brutal regime," said Lantos, the senior Democrat on the House International Relations Committee.
"That is where the battle will be joined," he said. "Clearly, this is the line of attack, and it is equally objectionable."
The World Conference Against Racism starts Aug. 31 in Durban, South Africa.
In 1975, when sentiment against Israel was strong, Arab governments and their allies won approval of a resolution in the United Nations that equated Zionism with racism.
This struck at the foundation of the Jewish state, which was based on Jews praying for two centuries to return to Zion, from which they were dispersed after the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem.
With strong help from the United States, the resolution was rescinded in 1991. The fact that Israel was in a process of making territorial and other concessions to the Arabs contributed to the reversal.