'I utterly condemn racism of any kind, but this conference is fast becoming a farce. As a result I urge Ken Livingstone to recall his representative, Lee Jasper, from South Africa. It is simply unacceptable to say that Zionism is racist.
The joint withdrawal, which several Western governments are almost certain to follow, virtually dooms the conference to irrelevance. Conceived as an historic opportunity to address universal problems of discrimination, the meeting instead has foundered on the single, bitter issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations. European delegates have been working to draft a 'completely new text' on the Middle East conflict.
In a statement, US secretary of state Colin Powell said that it was impossible to fight racism by drafting statements containing 'hateful language' and by suggesting that 'apartheid exists in Israel or that singles out only one country in the world, Israel, for censure and abuse'.