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EU sorry for slavery but no one will sue.

Byline: Ed Stoddard

The EU last night agreed to apologise for slavery and colonialism in the final declaration of the World Conference Against Racism, resolving one of the issues deadlocking the UN meeting.

The compromise was expected to be officially adopted in Durban, South Africa, later yesterday.

'There was a breakthrough on the notion of an apology,' said Koen Vervaeke, spokesman for Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who is leading the EU delegation.

The compromise text noted some countries 'regretting, or expressing remorse, or presenting apologies' for slavery and colonialism.

When asked if this amounted to a European apology, Mr Vervaeke said, 'Yes.'

The European Union had been unwilling to issue an apology because it felt that would leave it open to potential lawsuits.

However, the agreed to text had resolved that issue, Mr Vervaeke said.

'In the way it's drafted now there can't be any legal consequences,' he said.

The agreement, however, did not completely solve the issues still in contention on the last day of the conference.

African countries were still pushing for slavery and colonialism to be labelled 'crimes against humanity' and for Western countries to pay reparations. The EU rejected both calls, Mr Vervaeke said.

Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the secretary-general of the conference, said earlier today the likely final declaration from the conference would be nothing to get 'very excited about' because of the compromises needed to reach consensus.

'This is very difficult for the delegates,' Robinson said. 'The great achievement will be to get an agreement at all.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 8, 2001
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