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Friday, May 1, 1998 Published at 15:58 GMT 16:58 UK

World: Europe

Neo-Nazi rally sparks violent clashes

Police arrest a left-wing demonstrator next to a neo-Nazi rally

Real Video : BBC Correspondent Janet Barrie describes the clashes in Leipzig
There have been clashes in the eastern German city of Leipzig as police stopped left-wing demonstrators reaching a rally by right-wing extremists.

The police used water cannon and truncheons to drive back several hundred, stone-throwing demonstrators, two policemen are reported to have been seriously injuredand 19 demonstrators have been detained.

The demonstrators were attempting to disrupt an anti-foreigner rally organised by the far right German National Party or NPD.

Local radio reporter in Leipzig explains the party's strength in East Germany (2'39")
The organisers, encouragd by far-right electoral successes last weekend, had predicted up to 15,000 people would take part. In the end, police revised their estimates downwards to between 3,000 and 4,000, while the NPD said 7,600 turned up.

Around 6,000 police were standing by to keep the two sides apart.

The marchers held banners saying "Kohl must go!" and "Create jobs."

Speakers criticised banks, monopolies and the European Union, which they said were helping cause unemployment.

Other rallies have been banned

The city tried twice to stop the neo-Nazi rally but its latest legal challenge was overturned at the last minute. The regional high court said the NPD, as a legal political party, had every right to demonstrate.

Other NPD rallies planned for the east German cities of Gera and Halle have been banned.

The BBC's Germany Correspondent says the NPD is determined to raise its profile in the run up to September's election and is becoming more and more appealing to discontented youths in the east.

The party plays on widespread fears of unemployment and the social dislocation that followed German unity.

Last Sunday, in a regional election in the east, the extreme right-wing German People's Union, the DVU, gained 13% of the vote, the strongest showing by such a party since World War II. The DVU, run by a Munich millionaire, has proposed a national alliance of the far right to increase their chances of entering parliament in Bonn.

However, that idea has been rejected both by the NPD and by the far-right Republican Party.

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