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UN Inquiry to Address Germany's Rights Record

GERMANY is being summoned for the first time before the United Nations Human Rights Commission, with the chief complaint centering on attacks on foreigners by right-wing extremists.

It is highly unusual for a major industrial democracy such as Germany to be asked to appear before the commission. But member countries have expressed concern that Germany is not doing enough to halt violence by neo-Nazis.

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A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Bonn confirmed Saturday that complaints against Germany would be heard soon by a low-level committee of the 53-member human rights body in Geneva.

She said it was ``very unlikely'' that Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel would personally appear before the full commission to answer the charges, as suggested by the news magazine Der Spiegel in a report Saturday. Der Spiegel said in a report in advance of publication today that Mr. Kinkel was concerned about potential political damage.

The spokeswoman said the complaints being heard in Geneva were filed by individuals - not states. She said it was not clear if they would even be heard by the full commission, which convenes Jan. 31. The official, who would not allow her name to be used, said she had no details on the complaints.

Der Spiegel said the committee also would consider complaints from a schoolteacher dismissed because of her activities in former East Germany's then-ruling Communist Party and a prisoner's claim of inadequate pay for work in jail.

It was not clear if the antiforeigner complaint had any connection to the commission's appointment last March of a special investigator, Robert Dossou of Benin, to examine racism in leading industrialized countries. Diplomats said then that Germany would be a leading object of scrutiny.

Turkey had proposed the special investigator. A third of the 30 people slain by German extremists since reunification in 1990 have been Turks, including women and children killed in firebombings.

Stung by bad publicity from the extremist attacks and by charges they reacted weakly to the violence, German authorities have stepped up their campaign against radical rightists.

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Police in five German states seized piles of propaganda - and in some cases weapons - in raids on neo-Nazi targets Thursday.

On Saturday, more than 1,200 police officers massed in the eastern city of Halle to prevent a demonstration called by the rightist group National List, but banned by officials. No neo-Nazis appeared, but about 1,000 antifascists showed up and marched peacefully, city police spokesman Ralf Berger said.

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