AUSSIE MOB GOES ON RAMPAGE AT SYDNEY MOSQUE

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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Dec. 12) – There are signs that racial tensions are on the rise again in the Australian city of Sydney.

Up to 300 people have gathered outside a Mosque in Sydney's southwest region.

Dozens of Police have moved into the area around the demonstrators who have blocked roads surrounding the mosque.

The demonstrators pelted members of the media with rocks.

The tensions come just 24 hours after race riots broke out in a Sydney beachside suburb, injuring more than 20 people.

Police say some of the protesters abused and assaulted people who they believed were of Middle Eastern background.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister John Howard says he doesn't believe there is underlying racism in Australia.

Mr. Howard has described the mob violence as sickening and deplorable, saying it should be repudiated by all Australians.

However, he says it is important not to jump to conclusions about the unrest.

"I do not accept that there is underlying racism in this country," he said.

"I have always taken a more optimistic view of the character of the Australian people."

The government in the state of New South Wales has confirmed white supremacists were involved in the violence, but leader of Australia's opposition Labor Party, Kim Beazley, says Australian multiculturalism is alive and well.

"This is simply criminal behavior, that's all there is to it," he said.

The prime minister says Australia is still an open, tolerant and decent country.

But leader of the minor Greens party, Bob Brown, says racism was central to the mob violence, which he says is damaging the country's reputation.

"News of this is running right round the world to Australia's appalling detriment, it should never have happened," he said.

December 13, 2005

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

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