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Hungary

Hungarian prime minister addresses anti-Semitism at Jewish gathering

Hungary's prime minister told a Jewish assembly his government has declared "zero tolerance" on anti-Semitism. His speech didn't impress attendees who said he had failed to confront the country's largest far-right party.

Addressing the World Jewish Congress on Sunday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban acknowledged that anti-Semitism was on the rise both in Europe and Hungary, attributing it partly to the economic crisis. On Saturday, leaders of the far-right Jobbik party had denounced the WJC, held outside Israel for only the second time since 1966 to focus attention on rising anti-Semitism in Hungary and across Europe.

"Anti-Semitism is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated," Orban told the some 600 delegates at the meeting, adding that it was his government's "moral duty to declare zero tolerance on anti-Semitism."

Between 1998 and 2002, Orban's Fidesz party had designated a Holocaust memorial day and after returning to power in 2010, the prime minister banned groups such as the Jobbik-affiliated Hungarian Guard, who marched to intimidate Jews and Roma. The country saw about 550,000 Jews killed during the Holocaust.

'The threat posed'

Parts of Orban's speech received applause from WJC delegates. However, representatives also expressed disappointment that the prime minister hadn't specifically addressed Jobbik and anti-Semitic statements by the party's parliamentarians.

"The prime minister did not confront the true nature of the problem: the threat posed by the anti-Semites in general and by the extreme-right Jobbik party in particular," read a statement from the WJC. "We regret that Mr. Orban did not address any recent anti-Semitic or racist incidents in the country, nor did he provide sufficient reassurance that a clear line has been drawn between his government and the far-right fringe."

WJC President Ronald Lauder asked Orban to confront "dark forces" such as Jobbik.

"Through its anti-Semitism, its hostility to the Roma, and its paranoid rantings at the outside world, Jobbik is dragging the good name of Hungary through the mud," Lauder said. "Hungarian Jews ... need you to take a firm and decisive lead. They need you to be proactive."

mkg/kms (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)