Britain's opposition Labour Party has suspended Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, after he argued that Adolf Hitler was a supporter of Zionism.

Amid an escalating row over alleged anti-Semitic rhetoric among its members, the Labour Party said on Thursday that it had suspended Livingstone "pending an investigation, for bringing the party into disrepute".

In an interview with BBC radio, Livingstone had defended Labour member of parliament Naz Shah, who was suspended on Wednesday for sharing allegedly anti-Semitic posts on social media.

During the course of the interview Livingstone made controversial comments about Israel, and made an obscure reference to Adolf Hitler "supporting Zionism before he went mad".

"When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews," Livingstone said.

Naz Shah was suspended on Wednesday after she was caught having shared a graphic with a map of Israel superimposed on a map of the US, bearing the caption "Solution for Israeli-Palestine conflict: Relocate Israel into United States." She added the comment "Problem solved." 

She was also found to have used the hashtag #IsraelApartheid above a quote saying "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal".

Labour member of parliament John Mann, who was later filmed chasing Livingstone and calling him a "Nazi apologist", was also reprimanded by party officials for his "completely inappropriate" public confrontation.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said later on Thursday that his party "won't tolerate racism".

More than 20 Labour MPs had earlier called on Corbyn to suspend Livingstone following his BBC interview.

Sadiq Khan, Labour's candidate to become the next London mayor, condemned Livingstone's remarks, saying they were "appalling and inexcusable".

"There must be no place for this in our party," said Khan, who looks set in the polls to become the British capital's first Muslim mayor. 

Source: Agencies