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Tuesday, January 30, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Neo-Nazi groups on rise in Europe

The Associated Press

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STOCKHOLM - Neo-Nazism is on the rise in Europe, with hate groups using unemployment and poverty to promote a fear of foreigners and immigrants, Sweden's prime minister said yesterday at a conference about combating intolerance.

"Just a few generations after the liberation of Auschwitz, we see an alarming rise in right-wing extremists in Europe," Swedish Prime Minister Goeran Persson said. "There is no room for hesitation. It is time for action and cooperation."

For two days, world leaders will study racism, religious intolerance, homophobia and xenophobia, and will develop proposals for education, legislation and community initiatives to combat hatred.

Leaders also pointed to the need to address economic forces, as well as globalization, that make it easier to spread extremist ideologies.

"Living in poverty, feeling powerless and excluded, makes people look for scapegoats. We must be prepared to confront the despair, because if we don't, other forces will," Persson said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticized European governments for restrictive immigration policies, urging them to recognize the economic and social value of diversity.

"In contrast to North America ... Europe is saying mostly `no' to new immigration," Annan said. "Europe has adopted politically popular measures that contradict its relative prosperity and its prospected need for greater numbers of immigrants in the future."

The continent needs more - not fewer - immigrants to keep the economy going as Europe's population ages and its birthrate drops, he told more than 400 participants from 50 countries.

The white-power movement, whose adherents have found it increasingly easy to transmit racist propaganda over the Internet, was a major focus of the meeting.

Kurdo Baksi, a Swedish journalist of Kurdish origin who founded a magazine about racism in Sweden and Europe, said extremists have learned quickly how to use advanced technology to spread their ideas.

Baksi said 70 Web sites with racist and neo-Nazi material operate from Sweden, up from eight sites five years ago.

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