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Germany

Merkel criticizes anti-Islam PEGIDA movement in New Year's speech

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said her country will continue to accept migrants seeking refuge in Germany. In her New Year's speech to the nation, the chancellor also criticized the anti-Islam movement PEGIDA.

In her address to the nation, released on the eve of the new year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would offer support to those who needed help.

"It goes without saying that we help them and take in people who seek refuge with us," the chancellor said.

She pointed out that Germany has received more than 200,000 applications from asylum seekers this year, making it the country accepting the largest number of refugees in the world.

The number of refugees in the world this year hasn't been so high since World War II, Merkel added, saying that children of persecuted parents could grow up in Germany under peaceful circumstances - something the country could be proud of.

IS a 'threat to values'

Nearly one fifth of those refugees were from conflict-ridden Syria, where rebels have been fighting President Bashar al-Assad's regime since 2011 and "Islamic State" (IS) militants have taken over vast parts of the country's northern areas.

Merkel also warned against the danger that IS militants posed to the world. The terror group had "persecuted all human beings and had brutally killed those who didn't submit to its authority." The IS was also a threat to "our values at home," the chancellor said.

PEGIDA: 'Their hearts are cold, full of prejudice, hate'

Merkel also called upon citizens to be wary of the initiators of the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement who have staged several protest rallies across Germany over the last couple months.

She said that such movements discriminated against people with different skin color or religion.

"Do not follow people who organize these, for their hearts are cold and often full of prejudice, and even hate," Merkel appealed.

'Security in Europe together with Russia'

Merkel emphasized that the crisis in Ukraine would not divide Europe. Europe, she said, "could not and would not" accept the "purported law of the mightier" party, which ignored international laws.

Merkel stressed that Germany wanted "security in Europe together with Russia, not against Russia."

The German chancellor also spoke on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. She thanked all the doctors, health workers and volunteers of the German Red Cross and soldiers who had contributed to "stemming the sickness, which will still take time to conquer."

mg/cmk (Reuters, dpa)

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