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Thousands attend Haider funeral

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The funeral drew thousands onto the streets of Klagenfurt

Tens of thousands of mourners have lined the streets of the Austrian city of Klagenfurt for the funeral of the far-right politician, Joerg Haider.

His body was taken in a procession from the provincial parliament to a square in the city, where friends and prominent politicians paid tribute.

Austria's president and chancellor were among the dignitaries who attended a requiem mass in Klagenfurt Cathedral.

Mr Haider died in a car crash a week ago. He had been drinking alcohol.

The 58-year-old was driving alone after leaving a nightclub when his car crashed and overturned while travelling at more than twice the speed limit.

An official from his party, the Alliance for Austria's Future (BZO), said Mr Haider's blood alcohol level was well above the legal limit.

Ceremonial funeral

The accident occurred south of Klagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia, where Joerg Haider was the provincial governor for 11 years.

Police near the wreckage of the car Joerg Haider was driving, 11/10/08
The accident occurred near the city of Klagenfurt

The centre of Klagenfurt was sealed off for the funeral ceremonies and extra police were deployed to prevent any disruption by far-right protesters.

International guests included Sayf Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, who was a close friend of Mr Haider, and a delegation from Italy's right-wing Northern League.

Mr Haider has been condemned by left-wing groups, and one prominent writer used an article in a leading Austrian newspaper to describe him as a fascist, the BBC's Kerry Skyring reports.

The coffin, covered in wreaths, was borne in a military vehicle along the streets of the city.

He was a man who could leave no-one cold, whether in a positive or a negative sense
Alfred Gusenbauer
Austrian Chancellor

Austria's Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer alluded to Mr Haider's controversial reputation in an address to the memorial service.

"He was a man who could leave no-one cold, whether in a positive or a negative sense," Mr Gusenbauer said.

Following the requiem mass, Mr Haider's body was taken to be cremated. His ashes were expected to be taken to a chapel in a valley where he lived just outside the city.

Mr Haider was known for his anti-immigration and anti-EU policies.

The BZO was one of two right-wing parties that did better than expected in general elections last month, fuelling speculation of a possible role in a ruling coalition.

His deputy, Stefan Petzner, took over as head of the BZO after Mr Haider's death.

Mr Haider was first elected as governor of Carinthia in 1989. He was forced to resign in 1991 after he made comments praising the employment policies of Nazi Germany.

He was re-elected governor in 1999 and 2003.


SEE ALSO
Haider 'was double speed limit'
12 Oct 08 |  Europe
Obituary: Joerg Haider
11 Oct 08 |  Europe
The politician who cries wolf
26 Nov 02 |  Europe
Haider's enduring appeal
08 Mar 04 |  Europe


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