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US to boycott anti-racism meeting

The Obama administration has said it will boycott a world conference against racism being held at UN headquarters in September because of concerns about anti-Semitism.

The UN summit marks the 10-year commemoration of the 2001 World Conference Against Racism that was held in the South African city of Durban.

The US and Israel walked out of that meeting over a draft resolution that criticised Israel and equated Zionism with racism.

The United States will not participate in the forthcoming conference because the Durban process "included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism", Joseph E Macmanus, acting US assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, wrote in a letter to Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and other members of Congress.

Ms Gillibrand welcomed the administration's decision. "It is an insult to America that the United Nations has decided to hold the Durban III conference in New York just days from the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks," the New York senator said in a release.

"We all witnessed how extreme anti-Semitic and anti-American voices took over" the original gathering in South Africa and a follow up conference, the senator wrote.

The administration's move was also lauded by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations, an umbrella of 52 groups including B'nai B'rith International, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organisation of America.

Mr Macmanus' letter was responding to a letter Ms Gillibrand had sent America's UN Ambassador Susan Rice asking her to "send a strong signal" by not participating. She also applauded Canada's earlier decision to boycott the event.

"In December, we voted against the resolution establishing this event because the Durban process included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism, and we did not want to see that commemorated," Mr Macmanus told the senator.

The letter said that the United States is "fully committed to upholding the human rights of all people and to combating racial discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance, and bigotry".

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