The London Mayor has called on the gay community to think about how it can help LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people in countries where homosexuality is illegal.

Ken Livingstone, speaking at the launch of EuroPride06 today, said other cities have a long way to go compared to London’s position on gay rights.

He joined with Jason Pollock, chief executive of Pride London to launch EuroPride 06, Europe’s largest gay and lesbian cultural festival, which will be hosted by London this year.

Mr Livingstone, whose office is sponsoring the event, said: “We are delighted that we are hosting EuroPride it will be good practice for the Olympics.

“We certainly want to make certain that we increase the profile of pride in this city, and continue to roll back the homophobia, and we get the sense that around the world other cities have a long way to go compared to where we are today.

“The cities in this world that are lesbian and gay friendly are a small minority

“Lets think about what we can do for gay and lesbian people whose cities are in a worse condition.”

Mr Pollock said: “EuroPride London 06 will be an inclusive event in Britain’s cultural calendar in 2006 for people from all walks of life and visitors from around the world to come together to enjoy a carnival atmosphere. We have brought together an unprecedented range of support for EuroPride London 06 and it promises to be the biggest gay and lesbian festival London has ever seen.

“We want to reintroduce the capital P, politics into Pride, Its not just a party, lets not forget where it started.

He said he was disturbed by gay oppression from Eastern Europe, “It makes you think about London, we have never had it this good here.”

“I looked at the application form to get EuroPride for London, we had to prove that the bidding city had a policy of diversity and integration, a tourist board welcoming and actively courting the gay market and interestingly a welcoming and gay friendly mayor.

“London not only ticked all those boxes, but positively filled them in with pink thick ink.”

The Metropolitan Police is also sponsoring the celebration, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Brian Paddick, told PinkNews.co.uk,

“It’s a hugely important event, It’s really important that it’s a community event rather than a commercial event.

“To have the support of the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police is really important.”

EuroPride 06 is a two-week festival featuring an unprecedented schedule of over 400 exhibitions, film screenings, sporting events, comedy shows, theatre performances and music concerts to showcase London’s vibrant gay and lesbian culture. It is hosted by a different European city each year.

It will culminate on Europride London 06 Day on Saturday 1 July when up to half a million people are expected to attend a colourful parade that will pass through London’s world famous Oxford Street and Regent Street for the first time. Both streets will be fully pedestrianised so crowds can enjoy the day of solidarity, celebration and pride. There will also be a rally in Trafalgar Square, and events in Leicester Square and Soho.

British Airways, amongst other companies, is also a sponsor of EuroPride 2006.