Sofia worried Haider's party may block its EU bid

SOFIA, Feb 5, 2000 -- (Reuters) Bulgaria's President Petar Stoyanov said on Friday he was concerned that Austria might block Sofia's efforts to join the European Union after Joerg Haider's far-right Freedom Party joined a new coalition government.

"Our concern could be that a new government in Austria, which is a EU member, might hamper the EU's enlargement policy and thus contradict Bulgaria's national interests," Stoyanov told reporters.

"The EU's enlargement to the East is vital to Bulgaria," he said. Bulgaria is one of six countries which was invited to start EU membership talks this year.

Austria's new cabinet was sworn in on Friday. It did not include Haider, who is best known for playing down the crimes of the Nazis, but includes six Freedom Party members.

The inclusion of the anti-immigration Freedom Party has unleashed international criticism and the 14 other EU states have threatened sanctions. Israel has withdrawn its ambassador.