21 Apr 2009

Walkout at UN racism summit

9:51 am on 21 April 2009

A number of delegates walked out of a United Nations conference on racism when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel a racist government.

Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden and the United States are boycotting the event in Geneva over concerns that it will be used as a platform for criticism of Israel.

President Ahmadinejad's comments on Monday drew applause from some delegations.

However, France said it was a "hate speech".

Israel is recalling its ambassador to Switzerland in protest at the conference.

The BBC reports the walkout by delegates from at least 30 countries, is a public relations disaster for the United Nations.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has expressed dismay at the boycotts, and the speech, saying Mr Ahmadinejad had used his speech "to accuse, divide and even incite".

The conference is being held at the Palais des Nations where the League of Nations had its headquarters before collapsing at the start of World War II.