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The BBC's Anna Kirchheim reports
"His colleagues say outside pressure has nothing to do with his decision"
 real 28k

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"Austria's opposition sees this as a purely tactical move"
 real 28k

The BBC's Colin Blane reports
"Many EU countries are still assessing the announcement"
 real 28k

Katya Adler reports
"Surprise and suspicion in Austria"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 14:18 GMT
EU cautious over Haider resignation
Joerg Haider
Mr Haider will not be turning his back on politics
The European Union has said there will be no immediate restoration of normal relations with Austria following Joerg Haider's resignation as leader of the far-right Freedom Party.

Austria's EU partners froze diplomatic ties with Vienna after the Freedom Party became junior partner in the country's new coalition government three weeks ago.

This is not a withdrawal from politics. Instead, we are reassessing the leadership relations anew

Joerg Haider
Current EU president Portugal said the key question was not the personality of Mr Haider, but the nature of his party.

Earlier, the United States welcomed Mr Haider's decision as a step in the right direction.

But State Department spokesman James Rubin said: "This doesn't change our concerns the Freedom Party itself is still part of the government."

Israel, which reacted strongly to the Freedom Party's inclusion in view of past remarks by Mr Haider that appeared to understate Nazi crimes, said it would not send its ambassador back to Austria.

The key question is not the personality of Haider. It is the nature of his party

Portuguese Government
Mr Haider told a meeting of the party leadership in Vienna on Monday night that he did not want to stand in the way of the work of the new government.

The BBC correspondent in Vienna, Angus Roxburgh, says the move could help Mr Haider in his ambition to become chancellor of Austria, by allowing him to claim credit if things go well, and to distance himself from them if they go badly.

Mr Haider will be replaced as party leader by Susanne Riess-Passer, vice-chancellor in the centre-right coalition.

Austrian reaction

The resignation has been widely greeted in Austria as a tactical move.

Joerg Haider
7 Mar 1999 Haider re-elected governor of Carinthia
3 Oct 1999 Freedom Party wins 27% of vote in national elections
21 Jan 2000 Coalition talks between Social Democrats and People's Party break down
27 Jan 2000 People's Party opens talks with Freedom Party
4 Feb 2000 Freedom Party enters government for first time
28 Feb 2000 Haider resigns as Freedom Party leader
But the Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schuessel, rejected charges that Mr Haider's resignation was a strategic move aimed at strengthening his position in the long-term.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Vienna, Mr Schuessel described it as a sensible signal aimed at easing the current pressure on his coalition. He said he believed the offer was genuine.

"I hope that some international voices will now also become less excited and adopt a calmer and more objective view of this government and its work," Mr Schuessel said.

I do not believe that this is a game or a tactical manoeuvre

Wolfgang Schuessel
Mr Haider's successor, however, underlined the pivotal role he would continue to play in the Freedom Party.

"We will continue to work as a team and operate as a political partnership," Ms Riess-Passer said.

Austria has been subjected to a barrage of international criticism over the inclusion of Mr Haider's party in government.

European Union countries downgraded diplomatic ties and froze bilateral political contacts with Vienna. Israel cut off diplomatic relations, while the United States expressed dismay and withdrew its ambassador for consultations.

Austria's opposition Social Democratic Party said Mr Haider's resignation as party chairman was not a withdrawal from its leadership.

And Greens spokesman Peter Pilz said the government had manoeuvred itself into a dead end because of the adverse reaction to Mr Haider, and so had decided to distance itself from him.

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