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Wednesday, 8 May, 2002, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Austria braced for protests
Riot police outside Austrian parliament
Officers will try to keep the rival groups apart
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By Bethany Bell
BBC News, Vienna
Up to 2,000 police officers have been deployed in the Austrian capital, Vienna, to keep apart rival demonstrations by far-right protesters and left-wing anti-fascist groups.

The demonstrations are being held to mark the anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany at the end of the World War II.

Austrian leaders have appealed for calm.

Holocaust memorial in Vienna
Austrian Jews have only recently won compensation
Police in Vienna say a small group of right-wing members has laid a wreath at a military crypt in the city's Heldenplatz - or Heroes' Square - ahead of a rally to remember Austrian soldiers killed in action.

Left-wing groups are planning counter-demonstrations later today in protest at the right-wing rallies marking the anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany.

They say the day should be celebrated as one of liberation.

The 8 May demonstrations have caused huge controversy in Austria over the past few weeks.

Police have forbidden both sides from holding rallies in the central Heldenplatz, where Adolf Hitler was cheered by huge crowds after the annexation of Austria in 1938. But demonstrations are being held in other parts of the city centre.

The decision to allow the right-wing demonstrations to go ahead has been sharply criticised by the opposition Social Democrats.

Their party's secretary, Doris Bures, said Austria must not be allowed to become an international place of pilgrimage for people nostalgic for the Nazi era.

For his part, the Austrian chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, has called for restraint, saying the right to demonstrate was an essential part of democracy.

The BBC's James Robbins
"It was a very deliberate gesture"
See also:

30 Jan 02 | Europe
Timeline: Austria
19 Feb 00 | Europe
Thousands march against Haider
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