BERLIN (Reuters) - German conservative leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Monday accused environmental organisations of mounting "crusades" against diesel vehicles and said that driving bans threaten hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Referring to the non-government environmental organisation DUH, which has launched legal battles to ban the most polluting diesel cars from cities, she said: "DUH is doing a good job, but there is a growing impression that crusades are being led against diesel."

Kramp-Karrenbauer, who in December won the race to succeed Angela Merkel as chairwoman of the Christian Democrats (CDU), told n-tv broadcaster: "That hundreds of thousands of jobs depend on the (automotive) industry is an aspect that is often lost."

The government last month cleared away legal hurdles for carmakers to upgrade exhaust emissions filtering systems on older diesel cars as a way to avoid vehicle bans.

Carmakers have been forced to consider upgrading exhaust treatment systems on older cars after German cities started banning heavily polluting diesel vehicles to cut pollution from fine particulate matter and toxic nitrogen oxides.

The fight over refits is the latest fallout from an emissions cheating scandal triggered by Volkswagen in 2015 after it admitted systematically hiding illegal pollution levels from regulators.

German politicians have been criticised for being too slow to react to the diesel scandal, which threatens the future of an industry that accounts for about 800,000 jobs.

(Reporting by Tassilo Hummel and Riham Alkousaa; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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