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Japan 'regrets' US boycott of UN racism conference

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan said Monday that it would attend a UN conference on racism and regretted a US boycott of the event, which has been overshadowed by fears of a Western walkout and a verbal onsault on Israel.

"I regret that the United States cannot participate in the conference," Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters. "Japan will send our delegation led by Ambassador to Geneva (Shinichi) Kitajima."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon was due to open the anti-racism conference in Geneva later Monday amid fears Iran's president will attack Israel.

The US government decided Saturday to join Canada and Israel in staying away from the Geneva meeting. The boycott has snowballed as Australia, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have also followed suit.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and described the Holocaust as a "myth" -- arrived in Geneva late Sunday as one of the few heads of state attending the conference.

Before setting off for Switzerland, Ahmadinejad -- who is seeking re-election in June -- was quoted by Iran's state broadcaster as saying that "the Zionist ideology and regime are the flag-bearers of racism".

Similar sentiments expressed by some Arab and African countries eight years ago prompted a US and Israeli walkout during the World Conference against Racism in Durban, South Africa, and the five-day Geneva follow-up this week has descended into what Israel called a "tragic farce" even before it starts.

In a rare break with its Western allies, Japan has historically enjoyed warm relations with Iran, although ties have recently soured somewhat as Tokyo has backed international efforts to stop Tehran's nuclear drive. (AFP)

My Sinchew 2009.04.20


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