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Group D / Jewish, anti-Nazi groups protest against Iran


LEIPZIG - About 250 people demonstrated against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Leipzig just hours before the start of yesterday's Iran-Angola World Cup clash.

The rally in the downtown area, far from the city stadium, was organized by Jewish and anti-Nazi groups, and was attended by the mayor of Leipzig, Burkhard Jung. He said Iran's soccer fans were welcome in the city, but anti-Semitic speeches by its president were not. Security was tight, and there were no clashes.

Police said a small group of apparently far-right youths had tried to provoke the gathering by waving an Iranian flag, but were moved on without violence or arrests.

Ahmadinejad - whose demands that Israel be "wiped off the map," along with public doubts about the Holocaust have angered Germany - has not visited Germany, but Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hamidreza Asefi was present, officials of the state of Saxony said.

Iranian Vice President Mohammed Aliabadi had been expected, but did not attend the Leipzig match.

Speakers at the demonstration, held on a square outside the federal administrative-law tribunal, said Ahmadinejad should be barred from the country if he tried to visit.

Reinhard Buetikofer, co-leader of the German Greens party, told the crowd it was "the fruit of such demonstrations that the Iranian president has not come to Germany.

"We'll stand up to this regime, but reach out our hands to the people of Iran," he said.

Demonstrators had gathered to wave Israeli flags at Iran's two earlier games at the World Cup after neo-Nazis said they planned to demonstrate support for Ahmadinejad, but there were no clashes.

Rightist groups did not seek permission to parade at the Leipzig game.

Meanwhile, police in Leipzig said yesterday that a suspicious package found near the stadium where Iran played Angola was not a bomb but contained harmless advertising material.

"We can call off the alarm," a police spokesman said about the package, whose discovery led authorities to cordon off an entire street and evacuate three buildings in the area.

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