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Angud Roxburgh reports for BBC News
"The insults look as though they'll continue to fly"
 real 28k

BBC's Alison Roberts in Lisbon
"Statement is as strong as anything suggested by individual EU members"
 real 28k

Monday, 31 January, 2000, 21:46 GMT
EU threat to Austria

Klestil and Haider Joerg Haider (right) with Austrian President Thomas Klestil

Austria's 14 partners in the European Union have threatened to cut all official contacts with Vienna if the far-right Freedom Party is allowed into power there.

In an unprecedented move, the other member nations have warned that they will politically isolate Austria within the EU if Freedom Party leader Joerg Haider succeeds in forming a coalition government with moderate conservatives.

It comes amid escalating international concern that Mr Haider will strike a deal with the People's Party to end Austria's four-month power vacuum.

Haider Mr Haider has apologised for remarks praising Nazi policies
A joint statement issued by Portugal, the current holder of the EU presidency, said the government of the 14 member states "will not promote or accept any bilateral official contacts at political level with an Austrian Government integrating the FPO [Freedom Party]."

It added that in those circumstances, the 14 would not back Austrian candidates bidding for posts in international organisations.

Austrian ambassadors in EU capitals would also "only be received at a technical level".

'Nothing will be as before'

The Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres said EU countries would be forced to reassess their relations with Austria.

Threatened EU sanctions
EU members would cut political contact with Austrian Government.
Austrian ambassadors would only be received "at a technical level".
No support for Austrian candidates proposed for posts in international organisations
"If a party which has expressed xenophobic views, and which does not abide by the essential values of the European family, comes to power, naturally we won't be able to continue the same relations as in the past, however much we regret it," he said.

"Nothing will be as before."

People's Party leader Wolfgang Schuessel expressed surprise at the EU warning.

"Austria is not a country in need of a lesson in democracy," said Mr Schuessel, the foreign minister in Austria's caretaker government.

Schuessel Wolfgang Schuessel: Surprised by EU warning
"I find it surprising that the 14 member states of the European Union have come to such a decision without consulting Austria - a member state itself."

The international outcry over the Freedom Party largely stems from Mr Haider's professed admiration of Adolf Hitler's employment policies.

The far-right leader has also caused alarm by pledging to halt immigration into Austria and to oppose EU enlargement.

Austrian President Thomas Klestil held separate meetings with Mr Haider and Mr Schuessel, on Monday, to get updates on the progress of coalition talks.

He has announced that he will meet Social Democrat leader and caretaker Chancellor Viktor Klima and Mr Schuessel, on Tuesday, to discuss the EU decision.

It is possible that he may make a fresh appeal to the two men to try to revive the coalition between their two parties.

That alliance, which has run Austria for the past 12 years, collapsed following inconclusive elections last year.

Mr Klima last week abandoned efforts to form a minority Social Democrat administration.

Haider apologises to EU critics

Mr Haider and Mr Schuessel have said that their talks to form a coalition government are going well.

chirac Jacques Chirac: Mr Haider says he regrets calling the French president a failure
Mr Haider has apologised for attacks he made at the weekend about some of his EU critics.

In the weekend outburst, which drew a rebuke from Mr Klestil, Mr Haider called the Belgian Government corrupt and branded French President, Jacques Chirac, a failure.

But on Monday, the far-right leader said: "I didn't mean to attack any foreign government and if anybody feels insulted, then I withdraw those remarks with regret."

"I take back my criticism but I also expect people to respect the result of the Austrian election."

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See also:
31 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: What the action would mean
31 Jan 00 |  Europe
Haider's Austrian charm offensive
29 Jan 00 |  Media reports
Europe's media bristle over Haider
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider
27 Dec 99 |  World
Old memories and new fears in Europe
28 Jan 00 |  Europe
Call for calm over Austrian far-right
28 Jan 00 |  Europe
Austrian far-right prompts EU fears
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Move to thwart far-right leader
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
Conservatives defend Haider talks
26 Jan 00 |  Europe
Haider's rise 'highly disturbing'
27 Jan 00 |  Europe
World alert for rise of far right

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