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Annan says anti-racism forum must confront past and set new course for future

Annan says anti-racism forum must confront past and set new course for future

The upcoming World Conference against Racism must confront the past while setting a new course to fight the scourge in the future, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today in Salzburg, Austria.

"The Conference is a call to action," Mr. Annan said in an address to the Salzburg Dialogue Among Civilizations. "But our challenge is not just to diagnose the disease - we must treat it."

The Secretary-General noted that the Conference, which opens on 31 August in Durban, South Africa, should serve to foster preventive action in the battle to defeat racism. "We want to reinvigorate the fight against intolerance - with legal measures, with education, with economic and social development," he said. "And we want to do so well before grievances and prejudices spiral out of control and people find themselves on the battlefield, in conflicts they neither want nor can afford."

In this undertaking, Mr. Annan pointed to the need to closely scrutinize the past in order to draw lessons for the future. "The Conference will aim to produce a declaration and a programme of action with specific, forward-looking and practical recommendations on how governments and civil society can rid the new century of the racism that so scarred the last one," he said. "To do so, we will need to look unflinchingly at ourselves and the flaws in the societies we have built."

The Austrian Federal Chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, and the Austrian Foreign Minister, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, also addressed the Salzburg Dialogue.

Afterwards, the Secretary-General and the Federal Chancellor met privately for discussions that focused primarily on the current Middle East situation and efforts to restore peace to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as how to bolster long-term security in the Balkans.

During a press conference following their meeting, the Secretary-General was asked about reports that United States Secretary of State Colin Powell will not attend the anti-racism forum. While stressing that the decision on whether to participate and whom to send is "a sovereign right of each country," the Secretary-General expressed hope that "the US will participate and that they will come and sit with other governments to move the process forward, to fight for their ground and to get the right language."

Mr. Annan then left Salzburg to fly overnight to Durban, where he will open the Conference on Friday.