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Haider to Stay on as Austrian State Governor

Right-wing Austrian politician Joerg Haider has decided to stay on as a state governor, one day after saying he would resign and withdraw from politics.

When Mr. Haider announced his intention to resign, many Austrians smiled wryly and said "wait and see." The volatile politician has backed down from several resignation offers this year.

Monday, Mr. Haider announced his resignation as governor of Carinthia State, after his Freedom Party's severe losses in Sunday's parliamentary election. Support for the party was reduced by two-thirds, to just 10 percent.

Instead of accepting Mr. Haider's resignation, the Freedom Party's executive committee instead called for several senior party members to resign.

The committee wants officials and former ministers of the party who left their leadership posts in September, after disputes with Mr. Haider, to leave the party or face expulsion.

One of them, Peter Westenthaler, for years one of the closest devotees of Mr. Haider and recently one of his strongest critics, said he had no intention of leaving the party. He declared he would "fight with all means available against such a purge."

Many other Freedom Party officials have been threatened with expulsion because they publicly criticized Mr. Haider's radical politics. He was voted out of office as governor in 1991, after he praised the employment policies of Adolf Hitler.

Analysts say the continuing turbulence in the party means that its chances of entering the next government are slim.

Austria President Thomas Klestil has asked Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel to form the next government. Mr. Schuessel leads the People's Party, which won the election on Sunday. President Klestil said Austria faces many challenges and a new government should reflect a broad base of support in parliament.

The Green Party, the smallest party in the new parliament, has ruled out the possibility of a coalition with Mr. Schüssel. He can look to the Social Democrats, the second-strongest party as a coalition partner.

Experts predict that negotiations on a new government could take several weeks.