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Martin stiffs Irish ´Libertas´

Austrian independent MEP Hans-Peter Martin will not run for re-election this June on the list of the Irish anti-EU "Libertas" party.

Martin said in an interview in the newspaper "Oberösterreichische Nachrichten" today (Thurs) that, if he ran for re-election, he would do so on an independent citizens’ list.

Martin said: "I am independent by conviction and will remain so." He added he would decide whether to run again in April.

Libertas, founded by wealthy Irishman Declan James Ganley, said a few weeks ago it was aiming at launching an arm in Austria in time to present an Austrian candidate for the European Parliamentary (EP) election in June.

"Libertas" press spokeswoman Anita Kelly said: "We have decided we will definitely have a candidate in Austria."

Asked if the candidate would be Martin, Kelly said: "Mr. Martin is a great supporter and friend of Libertas." She added, however, there was no guarantee he would be the party’s candidate. She noted Libertas had been in contact with other possible Austrian candidates.

Libertas is using its homepage (www.libertas.eu/austria) to search for Austrian candidates. There, "Libertas Austria" says in German it is looking for "outstanding candidates for the EP election in June 2009 as well as "support for the organisation and for communication of our national election campaign. We would be pleased to hear from you."

The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) was sceptical about Libertas’ ability to field a candidate in Austria. BZÖ General Secretary Martin Strutz said it was doubtful whether Libertas could establish a political party quickly enough to compete in the June EP election.

Asked if BZÖ would cooperate with Libertas, Strutz said: "We are holding talks with a number of EU groups that support us."

Strutz added BZÖ would have its own candidate for the EP election with the goal of gaining representation in the EP. BZÖ would explore cooperation with other EP fractions in "a second phase," he said.

Libertas advocated a "no" vote in the 2008 referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon in Ireland. According to "The Sunday Business Post," Ganley’s anti-Lisbon Treaty group supported a letter-writing campaign to Irish citizens by an Austrian political group, Rettet Österreich (Save Austria), which is supported by some "far-right and neo-Nazi groups". However, Rettet Österreich has denied it is an "extreme right-wing group".

Ganley, an Irishman with dual Irish and British citizenship, is chairman and CEO of Rivada Networks, a US defence contractor specializing in military telecommunications systems. In the past, he has been involved in business ventures selling Russian aluminium and in the Latvian forestry sector.

In the early 1990s, Ganley founded Kipelova Forestry Enterprises, which became one of the largest forestry companies in the Russian Federation. He sold the company in 1997 for an undisclosed sum.

In 1996, his company Ganley International founded the Anglo-Adriatic Investment Fund, an Albanian financial fund formed to collect and invest privatisation vouchers.

Ganley had owned the high-profile jewellery website, Adornis.com, which collapsed after the downturn in the technology sector.

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