Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has asked Austria's People's Party to withdraw from a European centre-right grouping because of its alliance with the far-right Freedom Party, political sources said on Friday.

Aznar made the request to conservative leader Wolfgang Schuessel on Thursday night, saying a voluntary pullout would avert a vote by the European People's Party to suspend the Austrian party, sources close to the Spanish premier said.

The coalition includes Joerg Haider's Freedom Party. Haider, who has gained notoriety for public remarks playing down the crimes of the Nazis during World War Two, is not in the new cabinet. But his party has six ministers.

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