Europe

Austria in twin peak climb-down

Generic pic of mountains in Austria
Image caption Austria's scenic beauty is world-famous

The Austrian government has suspended the sale of two mountains in the Alps, after strong criticism from the opposition and the general public.

A senior official said the peaks could be offered for sale again, but on different terms.

Only bids from Austrian institutions are likely to be considered, rather than selling for the highest price.

The government had hoped to get 121,000 euros (£107,000; $170,000) for the mountains.

After a meeting between Economics Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner and officials from the agency charged with selling off publicly owned property, an agency spokesman said: "We have suspended the sale to evaluate alternative possibilities."

The peaks are in the easternmost part of Tyrol province, home to some of Europe's highest mountain ranges.

They are the Rosskopf, which has an altitude of 2,600m (8,500 feet), and the Grosse Kinigat, at nearly 2,700m (8,800 feet).

Opposition politicians came out vigorously against the proposed deal and the office of the privatisation agency was bombarded with calls and e-mails.

Residents were unhappy about the sale of the peaks, one of which is the site of a memorial to battles in World War I.

Any future buyer will be bound by a range of restrictions on use, meant to allow holidaymakers and climbers free access.

Local authorities have wide powers prohibiting owners from displaying offensive or shrill advertising, or erecting buildings that do not fit a region's character.

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