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Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 22:25 GMT
Croatian PM condemns Nazi salutes
The crowd in Zagreb, Croatia
Thousands had gathered in Zagreb's main square
Croatia's prime minister has angrily condemned the use of Nazi slogans and salutes at a reception in the capital, Zagreb, for the national handball team.

Prime Minister Ivica Racan warned such behaviour "could not be tolerated in Croatia".
Fascist salutes are unacceptable... and shame us in the eyes of Europe

Prime Minister Ivica Racan

Dozens of people in the crowd gave the salute - allegedly after nationalist folk singer Marko Perkovic Thompson shouted a slogan used by Croatian Nazis in World War II.

Last month, Croatian skier Ivica Kostelic had to apologise for remarks interpreted by some as pro-Nazi.

Strong following

Tens of thousands had gathered in Zagreb on Monday to celebrate the victory of the Croatian handball team over Germany in the world championship on Sunday.

"Fascist salutes are unacceptable everywhere in the civilised and democratic world, and such scenes... tarnish the victory of our handball players and shaming us in the eyes of Europe," Mr Racan said.

Handball team at the reception
Team members each got around $14,000 for victory

"Croatia has long ago broken with its Nazi past."

It was reported in Croatian media that some of the handball players had insisted that Thompson - who has a strong following among nationalist Croats - should perform at the reception.

The media have mostly condemned the salutes, but an association of veterans defended the singer's words as a "traditional Croatian salute".

The government has given 100,000 kuna ($14,285) in prize money for each of the 17 members of the handball team for their victory in Portugal.

Last month, skier Ivica Kostelic apologised for comparing his state of mind before a race to that of a German soldier in 1941.

He said his comments were unfortunate and spoken under the influence of a war movie he had been watching.

See also:

12 Jan 03 | Ski Sunday
29 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
31 Oct 01 | Middle East
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