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Austrian MEP Strasser resigns over corruption claims

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(VIENNA) - Austrian European deputy Ernst Strasser announced his resignation Sunday following revelations of corruption in Britain's Sunday Times newspaper.

Strasser, an MEP for Austria's conservative People's Party (OeVP) and a former interior minister, was one of three European deputies who apparently accepted offers of 100,000 euros ($141,000) per year in exchange for proposing amendments in the EU parliament, according to the broadsheet.

The two other MEPs implicated by Sunday Times journalists -- posing as lobbyists -- were former Romanian deputy prime minister Adrian Severin and Zoran Thaler, a Slovenian ex-foreign minister.

After initially fighting the claims, the 54-year-old Strasser announced his resignation on Sunday, noting: "I have decided to take this step because there has been a campaign against me in Austria" and this was "damaging the People's Party."

Earlier Sunday, Austrian vice-chancellor and OeVP leader Josef Proell had called for the deputy's "immediate resignation from all political posts," describing his behaviour as "unacceptable."

"All of Ernst Strasser's justifications so far ring completely hollow given today's revelations from the Sunday Times," Proell added.

The Austrian MEP has claimed he knew all along that the bribe offer was a sham but that he wanted to see how far it went before bringing the matter to the police.

European parliament vice-president Diana Wallis has promised an investigation, according to the Sunday Times, and Austrian anti-corruption prosecutors were also probing the allegations against Strasser.

It remained unclear who would replace him in the European parliament.

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