Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The U.N.'s Janus Face at Durban II -- Disappointment is all Relative

Are two faces better than one? Ask Ban Ki-Moon and Nicolas Sarkozy.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon wants to have it both ways. He is disappointed that Iranian president Ahmadinejad used his time at the podium to slam Israel as a racist state. But he's also disappointed at principled governments that chose to boycott this sham conference on the grounds that it would degenerate into Israel bashing and overt expressions of anti-Semitism, just like the original Durban conference did in 2001. Behold the reasoning of a true relativist.

"It is very regretful that the conference was misused by the Iranian president for political purposes," Mr Ban said during an official visit to Malta.

Mr Ahmadinejad used his speech at the conference on racism in Geneva yesterday to describe Israel as "the most cruel and repressive racist regime" because of its treatment of the Palestinians.

His comments prompted a walk-out by some 20 Western delegations and drew criticism from rights groups and Western governments.

Mr Ban also expressed regret that some countries had stayed away from the conference. The United States and Israel led about a dozen nations in boycotting the meeting because of concern that it might become a forum for attacks on the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, France is stricken with uncomfortable posterior splinters from straddling the geopolitical fence and trying to keep one foot on each side.

France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner criticised the United States today for boycotting the conference.

France, which has strong diplomatic and business ties with the Middle East, joined the walk-out of delegates in Geneva, but then returned to the meeting.


France's president Nicolas Sarkozy has worked hard to mend ties with the United States after a rift over the war in Iraq, and was eager to show off his good relations with US president Barack Obama at this month's NATO summit in Strasbourg.

But France has also been keen to maintain close relations with Arab governments, who have supported the conference.

Quite often, M. Sarkozy, I think you'll find that expediency and principle are incompatible. But let me ask you this. If the U.S. (among a respectable group of A-list countries) doesn't want to play in the same sandbox with overt bigots, tyrants, and ritual human rights abusers masquerading as anti-racist activists, then why do you?

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