September 1, 2001

Castro: Palestinians suffer 'genocide'

                 DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) -- Cuban leader Fidel Castro on
                 Saturday branded Israeli-Palestinian violence as "genocide" against
                 Palestinians and blasted the United States for seeking to hobble debate at
                 a United Nations conference on racism.

                 "(Nobody) has the right to set preconditions to the conference or urge it to
                 avoid the discussion...(of) the way we decide to rate the dreadful genocide
                 perpetrated, at this very moment, against our Palestinian brothers," Castro said.

                 Middle East bloodshed has dominated the 153-nation World Conference Against
                 Racism that opened in the South African city of Durban on Friday

                 The United States has cut its representation to a junior level in protest at what it
                 sees as an anti-Israeli bias and has warned it may withdraw altogether unless the
                 language in draft texts is revised.

                 Middle East tension and demands by some African states that rich countries pay
                 reparations for the past ills of slavery are threatening to torpedo the conference
                 which organisers intended as a landmark in the struggle against racism.

                 The veteran Cuban leader backed the call for reparations, saying that countries
                 that had grown rich on ill-gotten gains from human trafficking had the
                 resources to pay.

                 "This is an unavoidable moral duty," Castro said in his formal address to the
                 conference which is being attended by some 6,000 delegates from 153

                 The conference, which runs until September 7, is due to draw up a declaration
                 of principles along with a detailed plan of action to fight racism worldwide.

                 But Washington and European powers are wary of issuing any formal apology
                 for slavery for fear it could give grounds for legal action against them and they
                 reject any talk of reparations.

                 "(The) rich and squandering world is in possession of the technical and financial
                 resources necessary to pay what is due to mankind," Castro said.

                   Copyright 2001 Reuters.