Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Renews Criticism of China Abuses at Conference, Vatican Backs off Abortion Fight

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

U.S. Renews Criticism of China Abuses at Conference, Vatican Backs off Abortion Fight

Article excerpt

The United States unleashed a fresh attack on human rights abuses in China on Wednesday at the U.N. women's conference, while the Vatican said it would not seek any battle over abortion.

The Vatican said it was trying to protect the actions of the Cairo conference last year.

On the fourth day of the conference, the real business of drafting a wide-ranging agenda to improve the lives of women was going on behind closed doors, and progress was said to be slow.

Following Hillary Rodham Clinton's outspoken attack Tuesday on human rights violations, U.S. delegation chief Madeleine Albright raised human rights with China's foreign minister, Qian Qichen.

"He took it on board," Albright, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told The Associated Press. She described the session as "a particularly good meeting."

Later, in an address to delegates, Albright criticized China's practice of forced abortion and sterilization and repeated Mrs. Clinton's condemnation of China's heavy-handed policing and crackdown on free expression at a private women's forum outside Beijing.

Speaker after speaker demanded human rights for women. Some, like Danish Social Affairs Minister Karen Jespersen, supported the Western view that human rights should be universal, not dependent on a nation's religion or culture.

But British delegation leader Baroness Lynda Chalker criticized Mrs. Clinton's "full frontal attack" on her communist hosts, and suggested she was playing to her domestic audience. "I don't think that helps to change things," Chalker said in a BBC radio interview. "We work by quiet diplomacy."

More than 5,000 delegates are debating some of the most divisive issues before the conference - reproductive, sexual and human rights.

***** Vatican's Surprise Move

The Vatican surprised many delegates by announcing it does not plan to reopen the battle over reproductive issues that it waged at last September's U.N. population conference in Cairo.

Organizers of the Beijing conference had feared that another prolonged debate over abortion would take the spotlight off women's issues such as poverty, educational imbalances and discrimination.

In Cairo, the Vatican dominated the headlines with its fight to keep references to abortion, contraception and sex education out of the final document.

The Vatican ended up supporting about only 70 percent of the document. But on Wednesday, negotiator Janne Halland Matlary said the Vatican wants "to protect what was achieved in Cairo."

In Cairo, delegates for the first time agreed that women have a right to decide when and whether to have children, and to have access to family planning information and contraception.

Matlary said some nations are trying to backslide on the Cairo accord and warned that a battle over reproductive issues could "sidetrack this conference - and this will be very unfortunate indeed. …

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