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Anti-Nazi centre urges dismissal of Croatia's culture minister

ZAGREB (Reuters) - The Israel-based Simon Wiesenthal Center urged Croatia’s government on Friday to dismiss its culture minister, saying he took a disdainful attitude towards Croatian resistance to fascism during World War Two.

The Jewish human rights group expressed “shock and indignation at several actions taken and comments made” by minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic.

Hasanbegovic has previously dismissed similar criticism as unfounded. He could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

During World War Two, Croatia was under Nazi control and led by local collaborators called Ustashe. Many Croats fought as partisans within the communist-led resistance movement.

Croatia is now a member of the European Union.

“We urge the Croatian government to replace Hasanbegovic with a person suitable for the post of minister of culture who will bring honour and prestige to the post, rather than embarrass his country before the entire world,” the director of Wiesenthal Center, Efraim Zuroff, said in a statement on its website.

No comment was immediately available from the Croatian government or from Hasanbegovic.

Zuroff accused Hasanbegovic, a historian who is also involved in publishing, of failing to recognise the genocidal nature of the Nazi-sponsored Ustasha regime, and showing disdain for Croatians who fought against it.

Hasanbegovic is a minister in Croatia’s centre-right government, an alliance between the conservative HDZ party and the small reformist Most party.

Croatia’s centre-left opposition and several civic groups have already criticised Hasanbegovic’s appointment.

Reporting by Igor Ilic; Editing by Ruth Pitchford