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|Monday, August 27, 2001, updated at 09:18(GMT+8)|
Powell Will Boycott U.N.'s Conference on RacismSecretary of State Colin Powell will boycott the United Nations conference on racism that begins Friday in Durban, South Africa, administration officials said Sunday.
As the first African-American secretary of State, Powell wanted to attend the conference, aides said. But he decided over the weekend that he could not go because the conference will consider Arab-backed proposals that accuse Israel of racist practices toward Palestinians.
Administration officials said it is still possible that a lower-level U.S. delegation might attend the conference. A final decision is expected today or Tuesday on whether to send any U.S. representative.
Powell's decision, which administration officials had hinted at in recent weeks during briefings for interest groups and members of Congress, is sure to draw fire from the civil rights community.
Civil rights leaders have urged the Bush administration to send a delegation headed by Powell to the conference, which will take place from Friday through Sept. 7.
The circumstances surrounding Powell's decision raise the question of whether there is a rift between the White House and the State Department over U.S. representation at the conference.
State Department officials dismissed suggestions that Powell and Bush had different views on whether to send someone to Durban. However, Bush's comments prompted two days of marathon meetings at the State Department on the issue of U.S. representation at the conference.
Congressional sources who were briefed by the administration over the weekend said State Department officials complained that they had been boxed in by the president's strong words and were now suggesting that the Untied States might boycott the conference entirely.
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