LONDON - London's Mayor Ken Livingstone, known for his controversial statements, has denounced Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a war criminal, in a searing critique of Israeli policies published in The Guardian newspaper.
Sharon "is a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office", Livingstone wrote.
Livingstone also rejected accusations of anti-Semitism, and brushed off fresh calls to apologize for comments last month comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard.
The mayor also denounced "ethnic cleansing" of Palestinians during the expansion of Israel, settlement activity in the territories, and the denial of Palestinians' right to return.
"Sharon continues to organize terror," he said, citing the disproportionate number of Palestinians killed compared to Israelis during the intifada.
Livingstone argued that it was necessary to separate criticism of Israeli policies from anti-Semitism, saying the Israeli government deliberately attempted to conflate the two.
The government has for the past 20 years "attempted to portray anyone who forcefully criticizes the policies of Israel as anti-Semitic. The truth is the opposite: the same universal human values that recognize the Holocaust as the greatest racist crime of the 20th century require condemnation of the policies of successive Israeli governments," he wrote.
Mayor says he fights anti-Semitism
Livingstone's comments came as a response to criticism printed a day earlier in The Guardian by the head of Board of Deputies of British Jews, Henry Grunwald.
Grunwald said that the mayor had "let his office down" and should apologize for comments made to Oliver Finegold, a reporter for the Evening Standard, a paper which Livingstone considers hostile to him.
Last month he compared Finegold to a concentration camp guard since he was "just doing it because you are paid to" -- a reference to working at the Standard.
But the Labor mayor, long associated with left-wing politics, defended his record on fighting anti-Semitism and racism, and rejected a fresh call from a Jewish community leader to apologize for the uproar.
"No serious commentator has argued that my comments... were anti-Semitic," Livingstone wrote in The Guardian.
His administration had fought anti-Semitism "tooth and nail", and he continued to "detest racism", he said.