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Olympics: British PM rejects Sochi boycott over anti-gay law

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday rejected calls to boycott next year's Winter Olympics in Sochi in protest against Russia's anti-gay laws, saying he could better challenge prejudice by attending.

Cameron said he was deeply concerned about the "abuse of gay people" in Russia, but would not pull British athletes out of the event in protest.

Actor Stephen Fry had written an open letter to Cameron and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week calling for Russia to be stripped of its right to host the Games over a "barbaric" new law banning the spread of information about homosexuality to minors.

Activists say the law, signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, can be used for a broad crackdown on gay people.

Replying to Fry on his Twitter page, Cameron said: "Thank you for your note @stephenfry. I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia.

"However, I believe we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics."

Russia is facing a mounting campaign against its hosting of the Games, its biggest ever sporting event which is due to open in six months.

The controversial new law has prompted gay bars in cities around the world to boycott Russian vodka, while pop stars including Madonna and Lady Gaga have spoken out against it.

Gay rights activists were due to hold a protest against the law in London on Saturday, with more than 4,000 saying on Facebook that they planned to attend.

In his letter to Cameron and the IOC, Fry, an openly gay actor and author, described the new Russian law as "barbaric, fascist" and likened Putin's drive against homosexuality to Adolf Hitler's persecution of Jews.

"An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi is simply essential," Fry wrote.

"Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillehammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world."

Fry boasts six million followers on Twitter and is a well-known figure in Russia through his television roles, particularly in the Jeeves and Wooster series based on the books by P.G. Wodehouse, and his novels.

He visited Russia in March this year to interview one of the initiators of the anti-gay law in Saint Petersburg.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130810/olympics-british-pm-rejects-sochi-boycott-over-anti-gay-law