CBC Chairwoman Calls Obama’s Boycott of Conference a Missed Opportunity’

Posted April 20, 2009 at 11:13am

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) is fuming at the Obama administration for boycotting this week’s United Nations anti-racism conference.

State department officials indicated they will boycott the Geneva event because of differences over Israel policy. Officials said the proposed text of the conference’s guiding document was unacceptable, even though it had been rewritten to appease U.S. concerns.

Former President George W. Bush also opposed attending the 2009 Durban conference, which is a follow-up meeting to the 2001 U.N. World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The U.S. delegation walked out of that event over a draft resolution that, in its opinion, singled out Israel for criticism.

But Lee said the plan to boycott the 2009 event is out of step with President Barack Obama’s pledge to lead by example on human rights issues.

“This decision is inconsistent with the administration’s policy of engaging with those we agree with and those we disagree with, expressed by President Obama during the G20 and on other recent occasions,— Lee said Saturday in a statement.

The U.S. is “well-suited to play a leadership role— in the conference because of its own “unique experience and history— of combating racism and intolerance, Lee said.

The decision not to attend “does not advance the cause of combating racism and intolerance, but rather sets the cause back,— Lee said. “This is a missed opportunity, plain and simple.—