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Charting A New Course

Charting A New CourseThe decision to withdraw from the U.N.'s conference on racism may be more evidence that the White House is changing its approach to foreign policy, says a Tufts expert. Durban, South Africa.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.05.01] This week, the U.S. chose to stand alone. Protesting a controversial document criticizing Israel's treatment of Palestinians, U.S. delegates to a U.N. conference on racism packed their bags and went home. The last-minute pull-out, says a Tufts expert, is the latest evidence that the White House may be taking a new approach to its foreign policy agenda.

"[The pull-out] reflects a willingness, or even an eagerness, for the U.S. to go it alone," Tufts' Hurst Hannum, an expert of international law at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, told the Boston Globe.

The announcement of the U.S. withdrawal, made by Secretary of State Colin Powell, was quickly followed by a similar announcement from the Israeli delegation.

Unfortunately, Hannum said, the news took the spotlight off of the internationally important issues at the center of the United Nations Conference Against Racism.

"The real tragedy is both the U.S. withdrawal and [that] the whole controversy detracts from the greater focus on trying to eliminate racism," Hannum said in the Globe's article.

The conference -- which will continue without the U.S. and Israeli delegations -- is slated to include discussions on a variety of topics, including apologies and reparations to African states from the U.S. and European countries involved in the slave trade.

But the lack of U.S. involvement will be hard to ignore.

"It must be extremely frustrating to other governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who went to Durban at a large expense," the Hannum told the Globe.

According to the expert on international law at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, this isn't the first time the U.S. has taken a separate course from other countries on foreign policy issues.

Among the examples Hannum cited: the pursuit of a missile defense program and the denouncement of the Kyoto Protocol.

"There have been so many of those unilateral stands since January that one begins to wonder whether the U.S. has any interest in cooperating with the rest of the world," the Fletcher School expert told the newspaper.

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