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Vatican     AUSTRIA'S HAIDER MAY MEET WITH POPE
Austrian right-wing politician Joerg Haider may be received by Pope John Paul II during a Christmastime visit to Italy, the Austria Press Agency reported on Saturday.
    Haider, the governor of the southern province of Carinthia, is likely to head a delegation presenting a Christmas tree to the Vatican on 16 December, the agency said.
    Haider's recent visit to northern Italy led to demonstrations protesting his politics, which include echoes of some Nazi policies.
    Since February, the European Union has imposed sanctions against Austria because Haider's far-right Freedom Party is in the Austrian government coalition. Haider has since stepped down as party chair.
    The Austrian ambassador to the Vatican, Gustav Ortner, said it was ``entirely possible'' Haider would lead the delegation. An audience with the pope is considered ``normal'' for such a delegation, he said.
    The Vatican Christmas tree traditionally comes from a central European country, and is displayed in St. Peter's Square. The agreement to receive a tree from Carinthia dates to 1997, before Haider became governor.
   
AP
   
14/8/00



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