- The Washington Times - Monday, February 14, 2000

VIENNA Austrian politician Joerg Haider, whose rise to prominence has been marred by remarks about Germany's wartime past, is at the center of a new controversy over comments attributed to him about Winston Churchill's war record.
Aides to the far-right Freedom Party leader said yesterday that he may sue the London Sunday Telegraph over an interview published over the weekend in which he reportedly did not deny having described the former British prime minister as "one of the great criminals of the century."
Mr. Haider's press spokesman said yesterday: "We will probably contact our lawyers tomorrow."
The remark was reportedly made in an interview with a Vienna newspaper, but never published because the paper had agreed the interview would only be used if Mr. Haider gave his consent. He refused, claiming he had been misquoted.
But the comment was leaked to a member of parliament and made public. It appeared on the Internet in October.
When the comment was read back to Mr. Haider by Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson in an interview, he did not demur.
"Yes. With Churchill, there are a lot of bad things and a lot of honor. He did right and wrong. That's the fate of any important politician."
Asked by the Telegraph what Churchill had done that was so bad, 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 civilians.
"That's the same argument we put against [Adolf] Hitler. We say: Why should Hitler drop bombs on cities where only civilians and children live?"
Asked whether this meant there was good and bad on both sides, he replied: "Yes, yes, yes."
He went on to say, "If I want to attack Hitler, I cannot do the same thing which I attack on him."
In the Telegraph interview, Mr. Haider was also asked his opinion of steps by the other European Union states to cut off all bilateral political talks with Austria.
"The EU is acting illegally, because we signed a contract with the other 14 European states when we joined the EU [in 1995], and the essence of this contract is that, in substantial questions, there must be unanimity," he said.
"In this case, Austria was not even consulted; we had no representation; there was not even the possibility to exchange our different views. There was only some miracle decision on the part of the EU, and nobody can follow it because it was totally against the contract."
Asked how this was affecting his party's support in Austria, Mr. Haider said, "I believe it is increasing."
"The people feel uncomfortable and disappointed with the European Union. Therefore, I cannot imagine that this decision was taken by the European Union with any strategic thinking, because it is helping exactly the political group us which it is meant to attack."
Mr. Haider said he had no intention to ally himself with other far-right parties across Europe, such as the one led by Jean-Marie Le Pen in France.
"No. We do not like this idea," he said. "We are a specific product of the Austrian political system, and we do not want to be compared with other movements."

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