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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 May 2006, 14:32 GMT 15:32 UK
Germany in World Cup pledge
No one who attempts to attack foreigners, especially people of colour, will succeed
German interior minister Wolfgang Schaeuble

Germany's government pledged on Thursday to take a tough stance against xenophobia at next month's World Cup.

"I think during the world championship everyone can feel safe, wherever they will be in Germany," said Wolfgang Schaeuble, the country's interior minister.

"No one who attempts to attack foreigners, especially people of colour, will succeed."

Schaeuble 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".

Ermyas M, a German of Ethiopian extraction, was beaten into a coma last month by attackers in Potsdam, Brandenburg's capital, in an incident which ignited a public debate about racism.

Members of Germany's extreme-right plan to demonstrate in support of anti-Israeli statements made by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, when Angola take on Iran in Leipzig on 21 June.

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

But 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.

German officials see the 32-nation tournament as a chance to present their country to the world as welcoming, open and tolerant.

"A Time to Make Friends" is the slogan designed for the World Cup.

Theo Zwanziger, the president of the DFB, the German Football Federation, said they intend to fight the scourge that is blighting the image of the country.

"We 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."

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