EU Resists Push to Limit Free Speech at UN Meeting

Frank Jordans, AP, December 17, 2008

Islamic proposals to ban criticism of religion, which have gathered strength since the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad two years ago, threaten to derail an already troubled U.N. anti-racism conference planned for next year.

The European Union rejects suggestions by Algeria—backed by other Muslim and African countries—that limits on free speech are needed to stop the publication of offensive articles and images.

Supporters of the proposal, who have been pushing for such a ban to be included in international anti-discrimination charters, want it discussed in April at a high-level United Nations anti-racism meeting in Geneva.

But European diplomats say that is out of the question.

“We have made it clear from the start that we will not negotiate,” French diplomat Daniel Vosgien told The Associated Press on Wednesday. France currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU.

Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions, said the Islamic demands could wreck the meeting.

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