Pegida, and opponents both increase in Germany

* Anti-Muslim rallies are now regular event in Dresden

* Merkel says protesters are racist, motivated by hatred

* Counter-demonstrations much bigger in Berlin, Cologne (Adds appeal in Bild newspaper)

Top-selling German tabloid Bild and 50 prominent Germans called on Tuesday for an end to what they see as rising xenophobia, a day after thousands of protesters in several German cities rallied against Muslim immigration.

Monday’s rallies, organised by a new grassroots movement called PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, have become a weekly event in the eastern city of Dresden.

Some 18,000 people, the biggest number so far, turned out in Dresden but similar rallies in Berlin and the western city of Cologne were heavily outnumbered by counter-protesters who accuse PEGIDA of fanning racism and intolerance.

Read the January 6 Reuters update here

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