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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 December 2005, 15:45 GMT
Graz pleads with Schwarzenegger
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Mr Schwarzenegger says he wants to end his ties to Graz
The mayor of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian home town has urged him to review his move to end ties with the city in a row over the death penalty.

California Governor Schwarzenegger says he no longer wants to be honoured by Graz, where he has been criticised for denying clemency to a death row inmate.

Mayor Siegfried Nagl blamed left-wing opposition parties for stoking the row.

He said he hoped Mr Schwarzenegger's film catchphrase - "I'll be back" - will soon be heard again in the town.

Former movie star and bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger is one of Austria's most famous sons.

A naturalised US citizen, he was elected governor of California in 2003 and has confirmed he will seek re-election next year.

'Ring of honour'

Mr Schwarzenegger refused to use his gubernatorial powers to intervene in the case of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a former Los Angeles gang leader executed for murder last week.

Campaigners had long called for Williams' life to be spared, arguing that he had left behind his violent past in jail to become an advocate of reconciliation.

Graz assembly members condemned Mr Schwarzenegger's support for the death penalty, which is illegal in Austria, and called for a local sports stadium bearing his name to be renamed.

Mr Schwarzenegger hit back with a letter to Mayor Nagl, saying he wished to spare the city's politicians "further concern" by withdrawing their right to use his name for the sports stadium.

He also said he would be returning by post a "ring of honour" the city awarded him in 1999.

'Negative impact'

Mr Nagl told Austrian television he had written to Mr Schwarzenegger urging him to keep the ring and explaining "that the majority of Grazers stand behind him".

The conservative mayor blamed opposition Social Democrat and Green legislators for creating an "embarrassing farce".

He acknowledged, however, that the Californian governor was unlikely to change his mind.

"Those who know him realize he sticks to his opinions," he said. "The chances are not good. I regret this deeply, but I understand."

Austrian newspaper Kleine Zeitung interviewed several people in Graz who claimed to support for Mr Schwarzenegger.

"It's ridiculous that we're having a go at him about Californian laws. I'm completely on his side," Elfriede Weniger, a newsagent worker, told the paper.

"I reckon this will all have a negative impact on tourism to Graz," she said. "We've made ourselves a laughing stock."

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