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Austria's Kurz steps down over corruption probe

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Austria's conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced he was resigning Saturday to end a government crisis after his coalition partner said he was unfit for office because he has been placed under investigation on suspicion of corruption.

"You have all over the last couple of days followed that there are criminal accusations against me. Those accusations stem back to the year 2016. They are not true and I will be able to clear things up. If I am very much certain."

The move by Kurz, who denies wrongdoing, satisfied the demand by his junior coalition partner, the Greens, that he go even though he plans to stay on as his party's leader and become its top lawmaker in parliament, positions from which he can continue to influence government policy.

Kurtz proposed Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, a career diplomat backed by Kurz's party, take over as chancellor, whom the Greens soon made clear they accepted.

A star among Europe's conservatives and known for his hard line on immigration, 35-year-old Kurz became one of the continent's youngest leaders when he took over as chancellor in 2017 at the head of a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday they had placed Kurz and nine others under investigation on suspicion of breach of trust, corruption and bribery with various levels of involvement.

Starting in 2016 when Kurz was seeking to take over as party leader, prosecutors suspect the conservative-led Finance Ministry paid for advertisements in a newspaper in exchange for manipulated polling and coverage favorable to Kurz.

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