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The BBC's Rob Broomby in Vienna
Police are not taking chances
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 15:16 GMT
Austria to face up to Nazi past

police Police surround parliament buildings on Tuesday


Austria will face up to its Nazi past, the country's new chancellor promised as he unveiled the programme of his controversial new government.

Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said his administration would seek justice for those forced into slavery by the Nazi regime.



It will be for the good of us all if we approach the future with more sensitivity towards foreign countries
Wolfgang Schuessel
And he announced the appointment of a government co-ordinator for compensation claims.

The move came as the Austrian Government faced increasing international condemnation for its inclusion of the far-right Freedom Party.

Its leader Joerg Haider, who is not in the cabinet, has in the past praised aspects of Nazism.

Fellow members of the European Union have already promised to reduce bilateral political ties with Austria in protest.

And the country's growing isolation was further underlined after Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, cancelled a trip to Vienna.

Pro-Europe

Mr Schuessel, who leads the conservative People's Party, devoted much of his speech to trying to assure critics that Austria was ''a stable democracy''.

He said the international outcry was ''unjustified'' and ''exaggerated''.



There is no alternative to integration in the EU and that is what Austrians have been working towards for years.
Wolfgang Schuessel
Mr Schuessel affirmed his government's "emphatic loyalty to Europe" and said Vienna wanted closer relations with Nato "to keep open the possibility of membership later".

He also confirmed the government's support for EU expansion - the Freedom Party has previously opposed plans to include former east bloc countries.

Nazi past

Mr Schuessel said Austria's Nazi past required "special vigilance" and steps to ensure the new generation is "given the history of this country."

Unlike Germany, which has paid $60bn to Nazi victims since 1951, Austria has long sought to avoid responsibility, claiming it was Hitler's first victim when the country was annexed by Germany in 1938.

But Mr Schuessel told parliament the new government would press for justice for former Nazi slave labourers as fast as possible.

Companies involved in the use of slave labour would also be expected to contribute to compensation payments, he said.

Protests

There was tight security as Mr Schuessel presented his programme following days of demonstrations.

More than 1,500 anti-riot police surrounded the Austrian parliament building.

There have been no disturbances so far. But further anti-government protests are planned for later in the day.

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See also:
09 Feb 00 |  Business
Boycott fears alarm Austrian business
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Charles' Austria boycott attacked
08 Feb 00 |  Europe
EU trims meeting amid Austria fears
06 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider threatens treason inquiry
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider: View from the streets
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider

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