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Some progress seen in preparations for UN anti-racism conference

Some progress seen in preparations for UN anti-racism conference

United Nations officials today reported some progress at the ongoing talks in Geneva where a preparatory committee is negotiating the outcome text for the world conference against racism that will convene in Durban, South Africa, at the end of this month.

The delegates attending the meeting were a little more optimistic this week, according to a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who is also the Secretary-General of the upcoming forum, officially known as the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

Spokesman Jose Luis Diaz told reporters in Geneva that there had been some movement, especially on the issues of addressing the past and victims of racism and racial discrimination, as well as on the question of the Middle East.

A number of non-papers by different regional groups were circulating and some further progress on how to reach agreement on these difficult issues could be expected by the end of this week, the spokesman said.

As for reports that only 12 heads of State or Government have said they would attend the Conference, Mr. Diaz said he hoped that it was not a measure of the importance that they conferred on the meeting.

At least 80 ministers had confirmed that they would be attending the forum from 31 August to 7 September, and since it was a ministerial-level conference, the Office of the High Commissioner was "pretty satisfied," the spokesman said.