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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 16:53 GMT
Haider heightens anti-Semitism row
Anti-Haider demonstration 17/3/01
The row has deepened as elections draw near
By Bethany Bell in Vienna

Far-right Austrian politician Joerg Haider has renewed his attacks on the head of Vienna's Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, intensifying the row between the two men ahead of this weekend's regional elections in Vienna.


Haider's running amok and trying to slander me with his anti-Semitic lies

Ariel Muzicant
Mr Muzicant is suing Mr Haider for remarks made at a Freedom Party rally last month which have been widely condemned as anti-Semitic.

Earlier this week the row also sparked a heated debate in parliament.

A number of prominent Austrians have lined up to condemn both Mr Haider and what they see as a lack of response by the Government - a coalition between the People's Party and Freedom Party, in which Mr Haider is a leading figure.

Joerg Haider
Joerg Haider: denies any wrongdoing
Mr Haider has denied the charges of anti-Semitism but has stepped up his criticism of Mr Muzicant.

Now he is accusing him of working with the World Jewish Congress to tarnish Austria's image abroad when the Freedom Party entered government just over a year ago.

"I make the criticism on Mr Muzicant because he was against Austria during the period of negotiation in a new coalition government and he tried to influence the decision of the Austrian people by intervention abroad," said Mr Haider.

Threatening letters

Mr Muzicant has in the past complained about threatening letters received by members of the Jewish community.

But Mr Haider accused Mr Muzicant of writing the letters himself.

Ariel Muzicant
Ariel Muzicant is outraged Haider is going unpunished
For his part, Mr Muzicant says Mr Haider's accusations are outrageous and deeply upsetting.

"Haider's running amok and trying to slander me with his anti-Semitic lies," he said.

He said he couldn't understand how such a prominent politician as Mr Haider could get away with making such statements unpunished.

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See also:

01 May 00 | Europe
Austria's Haider bows out
07 Nov 00 | Europe
Austria's Freedom Party in crisis
04 Dec 00 | Europe
Setback for Austrian right wing
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