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London mayor not sorry for Nazi jibe

start quoteWere you a German war criminal? Actually you are just like a concentration camp guard.end quote
-- Ken Livingstone
Should London mayor Ken Livingstone be suspended from public office for refusing to apologize for a Nazi jibe?
Ken Livingstone
Great Britain

LONDON, England -- Defiant London Mayor Ken Livingstone has again refused to apologize for a tirade in which he accused a Jewish reporter of behaving like a Nazi concentration camp guard.

With International Olympic Committee inspectors arriving in London Tuesday to assess the city's bid for the 2012 Games, there are fears the row could damage Britain's chances.

Jewish community leaders and Holocaust survivors have demanded an apology from the Labour Party mayor.

However, at his weekly press conference at City Hall Tuesday, Livingstone again refused to say sorry.

"You may think my remarks to that reporter -- and many over the years -- are offensive," he said. "That is purely a matter of judgment. If you think they are racist I think you are wrong.

"It would be very easy for me to buy off media pressure by lying but I am not going to do it."

Livingstone's outburst came as London Evening Standard reporter Oliver Finegold asked him for a comment as he left a party for Labour MP Chris Smith.

The mayor, an outspoken left-winger nicknamed Red Ken, has no love of the paper and its conservative sister paper, the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail had a pro-Nazi editorial line in the 1930s, and Livingstone asked Finegold if he had been a "German war criminal."

When the reporter replied he was Jewish, Livingstone said: "Actually you are just like a concentration camp guard. You're just doing it because you're paid to, aren't you?"

A tape recording of the conversation was played Monday at a meeting of the Greater London Assembly, which passed a unanimous motion calling on the mayor to withdraw his remarks.

It said that, despite Livingstone's record in fighting racism, his remarks damaged his credibility, offended the Jewish community and probably hurt London's chances of hosting the 2012 Olympics.

An official complaint has been made to local government watchdogs by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, demanding an investigation by the Standards Board of England.

The board has the power to suspend or ban Livingstone from holding public office.

However, Livingstone said: "There must have been 20 instances like this over the last 24 years.

"I have never in response to any of that modified a policy I believed to be right or modified a position I believed to be right and I don't intend to now.

"Because if I do that effectively you hand power over your policies and position to the editors of papers."

Livingstone defended his actions Monday, saying he had been the victim of a hate campaign lasting almost 25 years at the hands of the Evening Standard and its sister paper, the Daily Mail.

"I have spent my entire life fighting against racism -- whether against Jewish people, black people, Asians or anyone else," he said.

On Friday, Livingstone and Prime Minister Tony Blair are to meet with the 13-member International Olympic Committee Evaluation Commission, which was arriving in London on Tuesday for a four-day inspection.

Their visit marks a critical phase in London's bid, which faces stiff competition from Paris, Moscow, Madrid and New York.

A fresh poll shows the British public are overwhelmingly in favor of the bid -- but do not believe the city will win the right to host the 2012 Games.

The ICM poll for The Guardian newspaper found that while 74 percent of those questioned backed the bid, only 39 percent were confident the Games would come to London.

Some 52 percent thought London would fail. In May last year only 44 percent felt London would lose out.

Paris is widely perceived as the front-runner. The winning city will be announced on July 6.

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