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Austrian Rightist Denies Anti-semitism

The unexpected strong showing of Jorg Haider’s far right-wing Freedom Party in the Vienna municipal elections last weekend has sent shock waves beyond Austria’s borders.

It prompted the Italian newspaper II Messaggero to ask Haider point-blank if he is an anti-Semite.

“Absolutely not,” he replied in an interview the paper published Wednesday.

He denied having said in a June speech to the provincial Parliament of Carinthia that the labor policies of the Third Reich, which sent Jews to concentration camps, were on the right track.

“It is false that I gave a positive evaluation of Nazism,” he said. He accused the Socialists of distorting his remarks to try to break his party’s coalition with the conservative but mainstream People’s Party.

Haider won in Vienna after a right-wing campaign based on a familiar mixture of nationalism and xenophobia. His party doubled its 1987 vote to win 23 seats in the 100-member municipal council, making it the second strongest party after the Socialists.

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