Ministers plan to outlaw neo-Nazi rallies

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THE GERMAN government announced plans to clamp down on far-right groups yesterday after the country's main neo-Nazi party declared it would hold a major protest rally to disrupt ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Allied bombing of Dresden this weekend.

Otto Schily, the German Interior Minister, said the measures to outlaw far-right protest rallies at Holocaust memorials and former concentration camps were intended to curb extremist activity on the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War on 8 May.

However, his announcement came too late to have any effect on planned demonstrations by the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) in Dresden this weekend. The organisation claims it will hold a "funeral march" that will be the biggest far-right gathering in the city since the Second World War.

The NPD's leader, Holger Apfel, 33, has insisted the allied bombing of Dresden, in which an estimated 35,000 people were killed, was a "bomb Holocaust" and an act of "cold-blooded, industrially planned murder".

"The same mass murderers who destroyed Dresden in 1945 have embarked on new wars. We have got to show that we are not prepared to become accomplices of Anglo-American gangster politics," he added.

The activities of the NPD, which won parliamentary seats in the east German state of Saxony last October, have alarmed Chancellor Schroder's coalition government. He has pledged to explore "every possibility" to ban the party even though his government failed in its attempt two years ago. Germany's constitutional court rejected the ban on the ground that the government had used "agents provocateurs" to back its case.

Dresden authorities called on those attending the anniversary ceremonies to demonstrate their opposition to the far-right by wearing white roses, a symbol of German anti-fascism.