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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Germany moves to ban far-right party
NPD skinheads
Ministers want tough action to curb neo-Nazi attacks
Ministers in Germany have taken further steps to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), which has been accused of neo-Nazi activity.

A majority of the country's 16 state interior ministers voted to ask the Constitutional Court to impose a ban, after NPD supporters were linked with a spate of racist attacks on foreigners.

A statement after the meeting in Duesseldorf said the ministers were sending a strong signal that xenophobia and right-wing extremism were unacceptable.

survivors of the Nazi Concentration camp, Sachsenhausen
Public pressure mounts against neo-Nazis
Two of the states - Hesse and Saarland - abstained from the vote.

No further action is being taken until the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, makes a final decision in two weeks' time on whether to press for a ban.

Public pressure

Federal Interior Minister Otto Schily criticised what he called the "anti-semitic profile" of the NPD and said "it is impossible to tolerate organised anti-Semitism in a land in which there were gas chambers for the extinction of millions of Jews."

Public pressure for action has grown since a bomb blast in July at a railway station in Duesseldorf, which injured 10 recent immigrants, six of them Jews.

A month earlier, a black African was beaten to death in the eastern city of Dessau.

The attacks were blamed on neo-Nazi groups.

Last month the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, urged legislators to pursue moves to ban the NPD, despite fears the plan could backfire because of legal hurdles.

Problems in the east

The authorities in Germany have already drafted plans to curb right-wing violence against foreigners.

State and federal interior ministry officials have agreed to concentrate their efforts on known neo-Nazi organisations, as well as improving security at Jewish sites.

This would include, where possible, shutting down neo-Nazi sites on the internet, which is being used to link different extremist groups.

The problem is particularly severe in eastern Germany, which is still suffering from high unemployment and the huge social changes that followed the collapse of communism.

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