The United States and Israel have pulled out of a U.N. racism conference Monday, in protest of language proposed for the U.N. meeting's final declaration that characterized Israel and its Zionist movement as racist. 

Leaders at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, couldn't reach an agreement over wording in a declaration drafted during the meeting. That document characterized Zionism — the Israeli movement to establish a Jewish state in Palestine — as racism and suggested sanctions be imposed against Israel.

Israel was to be the only country cited in the conference's draft declaration. 

Both the American and Israeli delegations had been threatening to leave the conference if the language in the declaration was not changed. The U.S. walked out first, followed by Israel shortly thereafter.

In a statement released in Durban, Secretary of State Colin Powell denounced the draft declaration's ``hateful language.''

``Today I have instructed our representatives at the World Conference Against Racism to return home. I have taken this decision with regret because of the importance of the international fight against racism and the contribution that this conference could have made to it,'' the statement said. 

``But following discussion today by our team in Durban and others who are working for a successful conference, and others, I am convinced that will not be possible.''

Norway and Canada had attempted to mediate a compromise between the Arab states and Israel on the conference's draft declaration. The United States, which had sent only a midlevel delegation to the conference, was part of those talks.

U.S. delegates had left their desks at the conference Monday afternoon.

"All attempts to reach a compromise have failed," Rep. Tom Lantos, a member of the official U.S. delegation, said.

Lantos said the Arab states were unwilling to accept reasonable compromise.

"We have gone the extra mile," Lantos said. "We have tried beyond anything that was reasonable to make compromises."

A conference that should have been about horrible discrimination around the world has been "hijacked by extremist elements for its own purposes," Lantos said. "The conference will stand self-condemned." 

Palestinian Ambassador Salman el Herfi said the Arab delegations had been very reasonable but that the U.S. delegation had refused to compromise.

"It's sad. It's sad they didn't leave room for dialogue, they didn't leave room for flexibility," he said.

Herfi accused the United States of pulling out because of its own refusal to face up to responsibility for slavery and the injustices done to American Indians.

"Their withdrawal will not affect the success of conference. The conference will succeed," he said.

Earlier Monday, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said only a balanced declaration on the Middle East, acceptable to everybody, will be taken seriously at the U.N. conference on racism. Moussa said Arab states were seriously working toward compromise. 

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, attending the conference as a member of the Black Leadership Forum, said he was disappointed that President Bush allowed the debate over Israel to determine whether the United State would participate.

"In many ways, the American delegation never walked in," Jackson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.