John Galliano says sorry over 'racism'

Designer John Galliano, who was sacked by fashion house Dior over alleged racist comments, broke his silence today and said: "I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour in causing any offence."

The British fashion guru was axed by the company yesterday following his arrest in Paris on suspicion of assault and anti-Semitism.

In a statement today, he accepted that accusations made against him "have greatly shocked and upset people".

But Galliano denied claims made against him and said he had co-operated with police in their investigation.

Galliano said he wanted to "address the personal failure which led to these circumstances and try and earn people's forgiveness".

He said he was now "seeking help".

Galliano was suspended from Dior last week after allegedly launching an attack on a couple sitting on a cafe terrace in Paris. It followed a late-night drinking session in the upmarket Marais district.

Police said he had drunk the equivalent of two bottles of wine.

Footage then emerged of a separate incident which appeared to show him abusing drinkers in a bar and telling them "I love Hitler".

In his statement today he said he had remained quiet on the advice of his French lawyer, but wanted to make his "position clear" because of delays in the case.

He claimed witnesses have come forward to tell police that he was verbally harassed and subjected to an "unprovoked assault" during the incident last Thursday, with someone trying to hit him with a chair.

"For these reasons I have commenced proceedings for defamation and the threats made against me," he said.

He continued: "However, I fully accept that the accusations made against me have greatly shocked and upset people.

"I must take responsibility for the circumstances in which I found myself and for allowing myself to be seen to be behaving in the worst possible light.

"I only have myself to blame and I know that I must face up to my own failures and that I must work hard to gain people's understanding and compassion."

Galliano said uniting people of different races, religions and sexuality has been his "guiding light".

He said: "I have fought my entire life against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination, having been subjected to it myself.

"In all my work my inspiration has been to unite people of every race, creed, religion and sexuality by celebrating their cultural and ethnic diversity through fashion. That remains my guiding light.

"Anti-Semitism and racism have no part in our society. I unreservedly apologise for my behaviour in causing any offence."

Dior released a statement yesterday saying it had "commenced termination proceedings" in the light of the "deeply offensive statements and conduct by John Galliano" contained in the video.

Galliano has been Dior's creative director for 14 years.

After his arrest he was released to return to his home in the same district.

In France, making anti-Semitic remarks is punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine of up to 22,500 euro (£19,200).

The Marais has historic associations with the Parisian Jewish community and has experienced a growing gay presence in more recent years.

Actress Natalie Portman, who promotes a Dior perfume range, has already dissociated herself from him.

The Israeli-born star - who landed the best actress Oscar on Sunday night - released a statement which said: "As an individual who is proud to be Jewish, I will not be associated with Mr Galliano in any way."