Vatican defends its presence at racism conference 24 April 2009
On the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel, Vatican officials have defended the Holy See's decision to take part in a UN conference on racism, despite the boycott of the conference by the US, Israel and other Western countries, who say that its proceedings are tainted by anti-semitism. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer to UN agencies in Geneva, where the “Durban II” conference is held, said that while the Holy See objected to the anti-Israel remarks made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his speech on Monday, he would defend his right to free speech. The Vatican diplomat did not leave the conference room as other EU countries including Britain did when Mr Ahmadinejad singled out Israel as the “most cruel and racist regime”. The Iranian president's words were criticised by the Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi, who deplored the use of a UN forum “for the adoption of political positions, of an extremist and offensive nature, against any state”.
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