BERLIN (AP) — A leading member of the nationalist Alternative for Germany party is distancing himself from comments he made in 2001 suggesting Germans faced "ethnocide" due to immigration.

Andrea Kalbitz, who leads the party in the eastern state of Brandenburg, said Tuesday that he wouldn't use such terms anymore and that it was "an issue I've checked off."

With some polls showing Alternative for Germany potentially coming first in next month's state elections in Brandenburg, the 46-year-old has faced scrutiny over his past.

Gideon Botsch, a political scientist at the University of Potsdam, said Kalbitz was "very clearly rooted in the right-wing extremist scene" for a long time.

Kalbitz told reporters that "one could accuse me of right-wing extremist connections, but certainly not of having far-right extremist biography."

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