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Amid protests, controversial Dutch lawmaker visits Berlin

Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders made a controversial visit to Berlin Saturday amid protests. Meanwhile, the Dutch Christian Democrats have ratified a deal to form a government with the support of Wilders' party.

Geert Wilders

Wilders, center, was invited to Berlin by a new German right-wing party

Populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, known for his strident anti-Islam and anti-immigration views, held a speech in a Berlin hotel on Saturday amid protests outside the venue.

"Germany too needs a political movement that defends the national identity of the country. Germany's political identity, its economic success, is threatened by Islam," Wilders told an audience of some 500 people at a hotel in Berlin's Tiergarten district.

"Islam is a dangerous political ideology for everyone," Wilders, who is facing prosecution in the Netherlands for incitement to hatred, said.

Visit triggers protests

The 47-year-old was invited to Berlin by a party founded in September by Rene Stadtkewitz, a former member of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) who is also a critic of Islam.

Demonstrators in Berlin protesting Geert Wilders' visit

Left-wing activists in Berlin protested against Wilders' visit

The event sparked protests in front of the hotel. Police said some more than 100 demonstrators holding up banners reading "Berlin Against Nazis - it's our Right to Stop Them" and "Send Geert Wilders home" rallied in front of the hotel.

Wilders claims Islam is a totalitarian religion and advocates banning the Koran, the burqa and the construction of mosques.

Wilders' party gets boost

On Saturday, delegates at a congress of the Dutch Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) in the Netherlands voted overwhelmingly in favour of entering a center-right governing coalition which would rely on the support of Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV).

June's general election delivered a surge of support for the Freedom Party, which won the third biggest share of the seats.

Dutch liberals leader Mark Rutte (L), Christian Democrats leader Maxime Verhagen (C) and Freedom party leader Geert Wilders

The deal paves the way for a Dutch minority government supported by Wilders' party

Earlier this week, the Liberal VVD and Wilders' PVV approved the deal which makes concessions to Wilders such as allowing the Netherlands to ban the full Islamic veil.

The Liberals (VVD) and CDA, which hold 52 seats in the 150-member parliament, would rely on Wilders' 24 Freedom Party (PVV) MPs to get legislation passed.

Saturday's vote was preceded by heated debate and objections by some members of the CDA opposed to cooperating with Wilders' party.

Merkel distances herself from Wilders' visit

German lawmaker Rene Stadtkewitz formed his Freedom party amid a heated national debate over integration, particularly in relation to Muslims.

A controversial book by former German Central Bank board member Thilo Sarrazin claiming that Muslims were undermining German society thrust the subject into the spotlight last month.

The German government has distanced itself from Wilders and the invitation by Stadtkewitz to invite him to Berlin.

"It is not our style to utterly condemn any religion," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said through her spokesman Steffen Seibert in Berlin.

Merkel had previously told the committee on European affairs of the Bundestag parliament that she regretted the formation of a minority Dutch coalition government which depends on Wilders' party to win key votes.

The event comes as fears mounts among German mainstream political parties of the emergence of a new anti-immigration, anti-Islam right wing movement.

Author: Richard Connor (AP/AFP/Reuters/dpa)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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