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Angus Roxburgh reports for BBC News
"The insults look as though they'll continue to fly"
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The BBC's Jane Hughes
"The US will take a close look at its relationship with Austria"
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Tuesday, 1 February, 2000, 20:56 GMT
US joins threats to isolate Austria

demo Anti-Haider protesters take to the roof in Vienna

The United States has added to mounting international pressure on Austria, warning it will review relations with Vienna if the far-right Freedom Party comes to power.

Washington says that if the Freedom Party is included in a coalition government then it would be likely to cut ties with Austria in the same way that the European Union has threatened to do.

The warning came after it emerged that the far-right party's controversial leader Joerg Haider was likely to finalise a coalition with the moderate conservative People's Party by Wednesday.

US National Security Council spokesman David Leavy said: "The entry of the Freedom Party in the Austrian Government would affect our bilateral relationship.

Joerg Haider: Close to forming a coalition government
"Should this occur we would examine carefully the range and depth of our bilateral relationship, and consider similar steps to those identified by the Europeans."

Pressure also mounted on Tuesday when Portugal announced that President Jorge Sampaio has decided to cancel a visit to Austria next month.

Portugal holds the presidency of the European Union, which has already threatened to restrict ties with Austria if the Freedom Party is brought into the government in Vienna.

However, People's Party leader Wolfgang Schuessel still appears set on a deal with Mr Haider - who in the past has had to apologise for praising Nazi employment policies.

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
Mr Schuessel, the current foreign minister, said it would then be up to President Thomas Klestil to decide "whether he will entrust us with forming a government".

The other 14 member nations of the European Union, with the support of the European Commission, have threatened to politically isolate Austria if the Freedom Party is allowed into power.

Austria's international partners are appalled by Mr Haider's far-right beliefs and his pledges to halt immigration and EU enlargement.

In Vienna, anti-Haider demonstrators also occupied the roof of the People's Party on Tuesday.

They unfurled banners which read "stop (anti-foreigner) mania" and "stop racism".

'Austria needs a functioning government'

But speaking after a meeting with Mr Klestil, Mr Schuessel said that Austria needed a new government to replace the caretaker administration that has been in place since inconclusive elections last October.

"Austria is an open-to-the world, stable country," he said. "But it now needs a functioning government fast."

Mr Schuessel insisted that there was no threat to democracy or human rights in Austria.

He criticised the joint warning by the 14 governments, saying it set a dangerous precedent for interference in the domestic politics of a fellow EU member state.

Freedom and human rights are just as secure here as in all other European countries, and that's the way it will stay.
Wolfgang Schuessel
He said that the best way of countering the international concerns about the coalition was to allow the parties to present a new government programme which would demonstrate Austria's continuing commitment to the EU's guiding principles.

Mr Haider has said that if a coalition is created he would leave the job of chancellor to Mr Schuessel.

Jospin makes appeal to Austrians

However, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin warned that Austrians needed to wake up to the dangers of the far-right before it was too late.

"The ideas of the Freedom Party are contradictory to the principles on which the European Union was founded," he told the French Parliament on Tuesday.

le pen Jean Marie Le Pen: Support for Mr Haider
Voicing his support for the EU threat to isolate Austria, he added: "The aim is to make the Austrians wake up and see that this project is broken off.

"If it is not France will have to take every measure to see that the Austria of Mr Haider and Mr Schuessel are politically isolated in Europe."

But the Freedom Party leader was defended by the far-right French politician, Jean Marie Le Pen of the National Front.

"Mr. Haider democratically won almost 30% of Austrian votes, and, according to elementary rules of democracy, he should be able to take part in a coalition government," he said.

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See also:
31 Jan 00 |  Europe
Analysis: What the action would mean
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Haider's Austrian charm offensive
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Europe's media bristle over Haider
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Profile: Joerg Haider
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Old memories and new fears in Europe
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Call for calm over Austrian far-right
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Austrian far-right prompts EU fears
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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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