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The BBC's David Sells
"Joerg Haider is one of God's right-wingers"
 real 28k

Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 23:26 GMT
Move to thwart far-right leader

Haider Joerg Haider: Moving ever closer to government

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has called for a "European front" to stop the far-right Freedom Party of Joerg Haider forming a coalition government in Austria.

The row follows the opening of coalition talks between the moderate conservatives and Mr Haider - who has in the past professed admiration for some of Adolf Hitler's employment policies.

Israel and governments across Europe are horrified by the prospect of the coalition, which would end Austria's four-month-old power vacuum.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak Barak: "Disturbing for all Jews"
Mr Barak took time off from dealing with a domestic election funding scandal to ring round other European leaders on Thursday to propose that they join forces to stop Mr Haider coming to power.

His spokesman Gadi Baltiansky said Mr Barak had made the suggestion in telephone calls to French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

"Barak stressed in these conversations how seriously Israel regards the possibility that Haider's party could join the coalition, and called for the establishment of a European front to combat the prospect," Mr Baltiansky said.

Coalition talks

Mr Barak had previously threatened to withdraw Israel's ambassador if Mr Haider was included in a government.

And he has now called on European leaders to warn Austrians against the "political fallout" that would result from the Freedom Party's membership of the government.

Austria must remain an open and tolerant country
People's Party leader Wolfgang Schuessel
The controversial coalition talks follow the failure of attempts to renew the partnership between the People's Party and the Social Democrats, the largest party in the parliament.

That alliance - which has ruled Austria for the past 12 years - collapsed after inconclusive elections four months ago.

It is now governing only a caretaker basis.

People's Party leader Wolfgang Schuessel has tried to reassure Austria's international partners about the implications of his uniting with Mr Haider.

Haider pledges

Mr Haider has pledged to end foreign influence in Austria and wants a freeze on immigration.

He has also opposed enlargement of the European Union on the grounds that it could lead to Austria being swamped by cheap foreign labour.

But in an address to the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe on Thursday, Mr Schuessel said that the potential coalition should be judged on its programme rather than on election campaign speeches.

Austrian Parliament
Social Democrats 65 seats
Freedom Party 52 seats
People's Party 52 seats
Green Party 14 seats
Total 183
He said Austria "as in the past must remain an open and tolerant country that respects the dignity of citizens, including refugees and immigrants.

"Austria must say 'yes' to Europe, 'yes' to the euro, 'yes' to [EU] enlargement, to a joint foreign and security policy."

The assembly passed a report asking democratic parties to reject any alliance with extremist movements.

Back in Vienna, the Austrian President Thomas Klestil has announced that he will delay a decision on whether to formally ask the Freedom Party and the People's Party to form a government, until next Thursday.

Mr Klestil had been expected to approach the two parties following the failure of the Social Democrats to form a minority administration.

But on Thursday he told reporters he would not hold informal talks with Mr Haider and Mr Schuessel until Monday.

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See also:
28 Jan 00 |  Europe
Appeal to EU over far-right leader
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Conservatives defend Haider talks
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider
26 Jan 00 |  Europe
Haider's rise 'highly disturbing'
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
World alert for rise of far right
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Berlin remembers Holocaust

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