World

British PM condemns far-right, rebuffing Trump's comments

British Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday there was no equivalence between fascists and those who opposed them, in a rare rebuke of US President Donald Trump by one of his closest foreign allies.

Mr Trump inflamed tensions after a deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, by insisting that counter-protesters were also to blame, drawing condemnation from some Republican leaders and praise from white far-right groups.

"There's no equivalence, I see no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them, and I think it is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them," Mrs May told reporters when asked to comment on Mr Trump's stance.

On Monday, Mrs May's spokesman had said that while Britain condemned racism, what the US president said was "a matter for him".

She has been widely criticised by domestic political opponents for her efforts to cultivate close ties with Mr Trump, whom she visited at the White House days after his inauguration and invited for a state visit to Britain.

Mrs May is keen to cement what she and many other Britons see as a "special relationship" between London and Washington as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, and her openly critical comment yesterday was an unexpected shift.

The invitation to Mr Trump to make a state visit sparked immediate controversy in Britain when the US head of state announced his widely criticised ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries just hours after Mrs May left the White House.

Mr Trump's stance on the Charlottesville violence drew renewed calls for the cancellation of his state visit, which would be hosted by Queen Elizabeth. Mrs May had rejected similar calls after previous controversies related to Mr Trump.

"Mr Trump has shown he is unable to detach himself from the extreme-right and racial supremacists," said Sir Vince Cable, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats.

"It would be completely wrong to have this man visit the UK on a state visit."


GERMANY: UNBEARABLE

German Justice Minister Heiko Maas yesterday also condemned Mr Trump's latest comments.

"It is unbearable how Mr Trump is now glossing over the violence of the right-wing hordes from Charlottesville," Mr Maas said in a statement.

"No one should trivialise anti-Semitism and racism by neo-Nazis."

Mr Maas - a Social Democrat member of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition - is the highest-ranking German politician to address the latest switch in Mr Trump's rhetoric about the violence.

Germany has tough laws against hate speech and any symbols linked to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, who ruled from 1933 until their defeat in 1945.

Ms Merkel had told broadcaster Phoenix on Monday that clear and forceful action was required to combat right-wing extremism, noting that Germans had also seen a rise in anti-Semitism and had "quite a lot to do at home ourselves".

UN: OUTRAGED

In a separate development, United Nations human rights experts yesterday called on the US to combat rising racist violence and xenophobia and to prosecute perpetrators of hate crimes.

"We are outraged by the violence in Charlottesville and the racial hatred displayed by right-wing extremists, white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups," the UN experts said in a statement issued in Geneva.

"We call for the prosecution and adequate punishment of all perpetrators and the prompt establishment of an independent investigation into the events... Acts of hatred and racist hate speech must be unequivocally condemned.

"Hate crimes must be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted."

The events in Virginia were the "latest examples" of increasing racism, racial discrimination, Afrophobia, racist violence and xenophobia "observed in demonstrations across the US", the UN experts said.

Recent incidents in California, Oregon, New Orleans and Kentucky had demonstrated "the geographical spread of the problem", they added.

The statement was issued by Mr Sabelo Gumedze of the working group of experts on people of African descent, Mr Mutuma Ruteere, special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, and Ms Anastasia Crickley of the committee on the elimination of racial discrimination.- WIRE SERVICES

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