UN ousts Jewish, Iranian groups from racism conference

UN ousts Jewish, Iranian groups from racism conferenceGeneva - The United Nations has ousted three non-governmental organizations from the Durban Review Conference on racism, an official said Thursday, citing disruptive actions and the propagation of racist material.

Rupert Colville, the spokesman for Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the "unacceptable behaviour" by the two Jewish groups and one Iranian organization, had prompted the rare move by the UN.

The French Jewish Student Union, an organization called Coexist and Nade, an Iranian group, all had their delegates' badges for the conference revoked and none would be allowed to attend the remainder of the event.

The Iranian group was "intercepted distributing materials of incitement," said Colville, while the other two groups were involved in disrupting events at the conference.

One event interrupted was a divisive speech on Monday against Israel delivered by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Colville said they also disturbed other unrelated events.

The UN security staff had evidence the French group was "preparing a similar assault" to disrupt events in the main assembly hall on Tuesday, after Ahmadinejad had already left Geneva.

Four delegates from the European Union of Jewish Students also lost their accreditation for disruptive behaviour as did one delegate from Bnei Brith International, a prominent Jewish organization.

Richard Heideman, an official with Bnei Brith told the German Press Agency dpa that his organization opposed any violations of UN protocol and would investigate the alleged actions of its delegate.

Heideman, who walked out in protest during the Iranian speech, said he did not support disruptive behaviour.

Colville said that interviews conducted with the French students "suggested their main purpose was to disrupt and not to take part in conference" adding that this was a violation of the rules the NGOs agreed to when they applied for accreditation.

The UN is hosting a week long conference to review progress made in the last eight years by states in combating racism. It is a follow-up to a 2001 conference on discrimination and intolerance which was held in Durban, South Africa.

That first event was marred by actions of some organizations outside the official event, relating to messages against Israel and anti-Semitic slogans. Some delegates in the main plenary also used language perceived as offensive to Israel. (dpa)