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Sunday, 13 February, 2000, 17:23 GMT
Haider 'to sue' in Churchill row

Joerg Haider Joerg Haider denies comments over Churchill

Austrian politician Joerg Haider is threatening to sue a UK newspaper which reported that he branded former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill "one of the greatest criminals" of the 20th century.

With Churchill there are a lot of bad things - and a lot of honour. He did right and wrong
Joerg Haider reported in the Sunday Telegraph
The Sunday Telegraph reported comments by the leader of the right-wing Freedom Party, in which he is alleged to have said Britain's wartime leader was responsible for destroying the German city of Dresden, which was heavily bombed by Allied planes.

Mr Haider, whose rise to coalition power prompted an EU threat of isolation against Austria, is thought to have originally made remarks about Churchill to a Viennese magazine before recent elections.

It was a condition of the interview that his controversial comments were not published.

Detail leaked

However, some details were leaked to the Austrian Liberal Party.

The Sunday Telegraph article, by editor Dominic Lawson, was based on a fresh interview with Mr Haider.

It says that when the words were quoted back to him, Mr Haider "did not demur."

Winston Churchill Winston Churchill: Blamed for bombing Dresden
Mr Haider reportedly said: "Yes. With Churchill there are a lot of bad things - and a lot of honour. He did right and wrong. That's the fate of an important politician."

Asked what Churchill had done wrong, Mr Haider said: "The bad things were like the decision to destroy cities such as Dresden, where there were no soldiers of the German army. There were only citizens."

Mr Haider's press secretary, Karl Heinz Petritz, denied the Freedom Party leader had branded Churchill "one of the greatest criminals of the century".

But he said Mr Haider had criticised Churchill's decision to bomb Dresden.

Mr Petritz said Mr Haider would be contacting lawyers to take legal action.

'Charles: no disappointment'

Elsewhere in the Telegraph interview, Mr Haider also apparently implied Austrians would not be upset by the Prince of Wales's cancellation of a planned visit in May in protest at his election.

"The Austrian people would have been disappointed if Diana had been coming, and then cancelled," he apparently said. "But this" - he paused - "is not the case."

The Sunday Telegraph said he also paused before saying whether he would have joined the Nazis, as his father had done.

"It's not easy to say ... because with the privilege of hindsight you know exactly what you have to do."

I think I would have been in prison during the Nazi period, because I am a fighter for freedom and not for dictatorship
Joerg Haider
And he added: "I think I would have been in prison during the Nazi period, because I am a fighter for freedom and not for dictatorship."

Mr Lawson said he also expressed admiration for British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"Well, if you compare our programme with the programme of Blair, you will find a lot of similarities ... He is protecting England against criminals, the same thing we want to do."

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See also:
10 Feb 00 |  Europe
Diplomatic snub for Austria
09 Feb 00 |  UK
Charles' Austria boycott attacked
08 Feb 00 |  Europe
EU trims meeting amid Austria fears
04 Feb 00 |  Europe
Haider: View from the streets
03 Oct 99 |  Europe
Profile: Joerg Haider

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