January 17, 2017 / 4:21 PM / 3 years ago

Head of Austrian far right to visit Washington at time of Trump inauguration

Head of Austria's far right Freedom Party (FPOe) Heinz-Christian Strache addresses the media in Vienna, Austria, December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

VIENNA (Reuters) - The head of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, has said he will travel to Washington for meetings “on the sidelines of” the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, though he did not specify who.

In a statement on his Facebook page, the head of the anti-immigration Freedom Party (FPO) did not say whether he would attend the inauguration ceremony on Jan. 20, but did state he would not be meeting Trump himself. Spokesmen for his party were not immediately available for comment.

Strache’s visit is likely to raise fresh questions about ties between European far-right parties and people close to Trump. FPO officials met people close to Trump, including his pick for national security adviser Michael Flynn, on a recent visit to the United States, the party said last month.

“There is a series of invitations to talks with interesting political representatives of the United States on the sidelines of the U.S. president’s inauguration on our packed schedule,” Strache said, adding that he would be accompanied by an FPO delegation.

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was seen at Trump Tower last week, but a spokesman for Trump said she did not meet with him or his team.

The Kleine Zeitung newspaper said Strache’s delegation would include Norbert Hofer, who narrowly failed to become president last year, which would have made him the first freely elected far-right head of state in Europe since World War Two.

Strache said “good diplomatic and economic relations” between Austria and the United States were a priority for him given his party’s “possible future government responsibilities”. Austria’s centrist government’s mandate runs until next year.

“In order to avoid unnecessary speculation, a meeting with the future U.S. president, Donald Trump, is not planned,” Strache said.

Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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