French authorities have filed preliminary charges against Bob Dylan over a 2012 interview in which he was quoted comparing Croatians to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office in Paris, said on Tuesday that the charges of "public insult and inciting hate" were filed in mid-November.

The charges stemmed from a lawsuit by a Croatian community group in France over an interview in Rolling Stone magazine.

In the interview, published in the magazine's September 27, 2012 edition, the singer said racism was holding America back.

"If you got a slave master or (Ku Klux) Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that," he was quoted as saying.

"That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood."

The group alleged that the comments as carried in the French version of the magazine violated French racial hatred laws.

'A subversive cultural force'

France has strict laws punishing hate speech and racist remarks. Racism complaints automatically trigger formal investigations, irrespective of the merits of the case.

A lawyer for the group, Ivan Jurasinovic, said they were not seeking monetary damages but only want the legendary singer to apologise to the Croatian people for the comments.

Representatives for Dylan could not immediately be reached for comment.

Only last month, Dylan was awarded the prestigious Legion d'Honneur in Paris.

The Culture Minister, Aurelie Filippetti, had said that for French people he embodied a "subversive cultural force that can change people and the world".

Source: Agencies