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Germany takes strong anti-racist stance for World Cup

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, May 18: Germany pledged today to take a tough stance against xenophobia at next month's soccer World Cup and dismissed a warning that black fans risked attacks in some parts of the country.

''I think during the world championship everyone can feel safe, wherever he will be in Germany. We are prepared,'' Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters.

''No one who would try make attacks on foreigners, people of colour, will succeed.'' He was speaking a day after a former government spokesman said non-whites should avoid parts of Brandenburg, the former east German state surrounding Berlin, because ''they would possibly not leave there alive''.

A German-Ethiopian man was beaten into a coma last month by attackers in Potsdam, Brandenburg's capital, in an incident which ignited a public debate about racism.

German far-rightists plan to demonstrate in support of anti-Israeli statements by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when Iran play Angola in the eastern city of Leipzig on June 21.

It is still unclear whether local authorities will permit the rally. Schaeuble said the government would use all available legal means to prevent the World Cup being exploited.

''I think whoever will try to abuse the world championship for political means will fail, especially extremists of the right wing,'' he said.

Leipzig is the only one of the 12 World Cup venues in former communist eastern Germany, where far-rightists draw their strongest support.

Germany officials see the 32-nation sports festival as a chance to present their country to the world as welcoming, open and tolerant, and never tire of repeating the tournament slogan: ''A Time to Make Friends''.

German soccer chief Theo Zwanziger told a pre-World Cup conference in Berlin: ''We Germans would like to show we are patriots but not nationalists.'' ''The German soccer association will take a very decisive stand against any kind of racism and xenophobia. We will not tolerate it. We will keep our eyes open. The creeping poison of racism can be very, very dangerous.'' Asked to elaborate, Zwanziger told Reuters: ''It's an enduring problem...Go to our stadiums, look what sort of things go on, what kind of banners, what kind of songs are sung.

''I can't say that at the moment we are free from racist ideas, not just in Germany but in the whole of Europe...I don't think we have a situation where we need to get excited, but we need to watch out.'' REUTERS

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