Salzburg Festival cancels invitation over Kadhafi ties

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The famed Salzburg music festival has withdrawn an invitation to former Swiss politician Jean Ziegler to speak at the event's opening, citing alleged links to Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

The governor of Salzburg province, Gabi Burgstaller, had invited the sociologist and former UN special rapporteur on the right to food to give the opening speech at the 91st Salzburg Festival this summer, before rescinding the invitation.

But debate over Ziegler's alleged ties to Kadhafi would have detracted from the speech, Burgstaller told the daily Salzburger Nachrichten on Friday.

Ziegler, 76, however, hit out at the festival's sponsors in an interview with the Austria Press Agency.

Major Swiss firms, like food giant Nestle and banks Credit Suisse and UBS, had leaned on the festival's organisers to prevent him from speaking to the well-heeled audience about global concerns like hunger and poverty, he claimed.

Burgstaller, meanwhile, insisted sponsors and special interests had nothing to do with her decision.

In a recent interview with the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Ziegler admitted he had met with Kadhafi half a dozen times in the past, although he insisted the Libyan leader was now "completely mad."

On Friday, he again denied any recent contacts with Kadhafi, calling him a psychopath and a mass murderer.

Ziegler was now to attend a parallel event in Salzburg organised by the Green party instead.

The Salzburg Festival runs from July 27 to August 30.

© 2011 AFP

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