A COMMUNITY leader claimed yesterday that police were unable to control Asian gangs in the area where a white teenager died in a racially motivated murder.

Ayub Khan, a member of the Multi-faith Coalition group in Pollokshields, said there was a widespread belief in the Glasgow district that officers were afraid to act in case they were accused of being racist.

His comments, the day after two Asian men were convicted in connection with the murder of 15-year-old Kriss Donald, backed claims by police sources that political correctness may have exacerbated problems in the area, which is home to Scotland's largest Asian population.

Mr Khan said gang troubles were going unchecked because of the lack of police action, and the reputation of the area had been ruined in the past few years by a small group of young Asians.

''It is not the white youths causing the trouble, but the Asian gangs. People know that the police are too scared to come into the area and be accused of racism.

''The police know and the community know who are causing these problems, but their hands are tied and members of the community know their life will be made hell if the gangs find out who shopped them.

''There are beatings taking place all the time, but people are just not going to the police because they know their windows will be broken. A lot of the families try to sort it out between themselves because there is so much disgrace involved in your child going to court.''

Officers have admitted avoiding pursuing certain crimes for fear of complaints and insufficient backing from force headquarters. Before Kriss's murder, police sources said they were aware of abductions, fraud, and drug dealing by Asian gangs in the area.

Credit card fraud was so frequently perpetrated in the area that officers have re-named it the G41 crime, because of the area's postcode, but said it had not been fully pursued.

Officers claim that, despite the extensive intelligence gleaned though Operation Gather - a police focus on Asian gangs which was stopped last year, allegedly because it was politically incorrect - much of

it was not followed up.

One officer, who asked not to be named, said: ''The end of Operation Gather was part of a whole policy to discourage officers from actively pursuing Asian crime.

''A lot of cops are loath to go into Pollokshields to do pro-active work because if we receive complaints about being racist - even if they are unfounded - the force will not back us.

''The problems with the Asian gangs is very real. They are also thought to be responsible for bringing drugs up from Birmingham and a huge proportion of credit card fraud in Britain but no-one has followed it up or targeted most of these people. We are also aware that a lot of the crime in the area goes unreported.''

A report prepared for the Scottish Parliament's communities committee last year found that residents were worried about youth gang warfare in children as young as 13, saying ''police are wary of tackling the gangs due to racism issues''.

In 1998, 15-year-old Imran Khan was stabbed, and later died, after a fight attributed to trouble between Asian and white gangs in the south side of the city. A teenager was later jailed for attempted murder.

Irene Graham, spokeswoman on equality for Glasgow City Council, acknowledged more needed to be done in Pollokshields. She said: ''I believe we need to find new ways of bringing young people together to learn from each other.

'' I recognise we need to do more than hold one-off events and the council's youth services division has several groups in the Pollokshields area. The first is working with a group of around 20 young white males assumed to have been responsible for considerable antisocial behaviour in the area.''

Strathclyde police last night denied there were any noticeable tensions in the area.

On the allegations that Operation Gather should have continued, a spokesman said: ''The force regularly launches operations to target particular problems. However, no operation lasts indefinitely.

''We initiated Operation Gather to tackle a particular issue. Intelligence was gathered and a number of people were arrested and subsequently sent to prison.

''As a result, tensions in the area greatly reduced.

''Resources were then transferred to tackling other key areas of concern within the division. However, we continue to gather intelligence.''