Libyan president Moamer Kadhafi defended Austria's controversial far-right figure Joerg Haider in an interview on Thursday and slammed the European Union for imposing sanctions on Vienna due to the presence of Haider's Freedom Party in government.
"If it is the will of the Austrian people to elect Haider, that must be accepted. Nobody can interfere with that," Kadhafi told the weekly magazine News.
Haider's relationship with Kadhafi drew scutiny last month after the Austrian made a mysterious trip to Libya and then began providing discount gasoline to petrol stations in the province of Carinthia, where he is governor.
Kadhafi said in Thursday's interview that Libya was always ready to do business with "upstanding businessmen" and that the EU, which has isolated Austria since Haider's party entered government, should accept the outcome of democratic elections.
"It simply cannot be allowed that the interests of Europe's citizens are sacrificed for the interests of a specific clique of people," he was quoted as saying.
"Europe needs the interests of its people at the top of the agenda, and not those of a Zionist state," he added in an apparent reference to EU ties with Israel.
Kadhafi went on to condemn hostile international attitudes towards countries based on their past behaviour.
"Was Haider a member of the Nazi party?... When crimes against the Jews were committed, they were committed by Hitler, or Mussolini... To treat Germany or Italy as if they were still Nazi Germany or fascist Italy is a form of blackmail," said the Libyan leader.
The Freedom Party is widely seen abroad as anti-European and anti-foreigner, and is believed to have insufficiently distanced itself from Austria's Nazi past.
At home in Austria the party is described, also by the opposition, as "right populist" - VIENNA (AFP)
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