'I am emancipated enough', Austrian leader says after Kurz tweets for him

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Austria's new Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg looks on as he is welcomed by European Council President Charles Michel, in Brussels, Belgium, October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman

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VIENNA, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg, ridiculed by critics as a mere pawn of his predecessor Sebastian Kurz, said on Thursday he is "emancipated enough" after a message of his was mistakenly sent instead from Kurz's Twitter account.

Kurz stepped down on Saturday at the behest of his junior coalition partner, the Greens, after prosecutors placed him and nine others including several senior aides under investigation on suspicion of corruption offences.

Kurz, who denies wrongdoing, remains leader of his party and is now also its top lawmaker. Opposition parties say Schallenberg, a career diplomat and close Kurz ally, is little more than Kurz's puppet and Kurz is "chancellor in she shadows".

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Kurz denies that, but a Twitter mishap on Thursday played into his critics' hands. A message announcing "my first trip as chancellor" featuring a picture of Schallenberg on his way to Brussels was sent from Kurz's account. It was soon deleted and reposted from Schallenberg's.

"Of course I am emancipated enough. I was sworn in as chancellor of the Republic of Austria on Monday," Schallenberg told a news conference in Brussels.

"That perhaps an error occurred on a social media account, so to say - one has to understand that the situation of the past five days was very challenging for all staff," he added. "That has absolutely nothing to do with my understanding of my office and my position."

Schallenberg said in his first statement in the job that he will "work very closely" with Kurz.

He has also not ruled out Kurz returning as chancellor in this parliament if the investigation ends, but the Greens have.

"We'll cross the bridge when we get there," he told ORF TV in English on Wednesday.

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Reporting by Francois Murphy, Editing by William Maclean

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