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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz steps down amid corruption probe

VIENNA -Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Saturday he is stepping down after being placed under investigation on suspicion of corruption offenses, but he plans to stay on as the leader of his party and its top lawmaker in parliament.

Kurz denies wrongdoing and had said he was willing to keep governing with his coalition partner, the Greens. But the left-wing party has said the investigation makes Kurz unfit to serve chancellor and called on his party to name a successor who was “beyond reproach”.

The Greens began talks on Friday with Austria’s three opposition parties, which have all demanded that Kurz resign and plan to submit one or more no-confidence motions against him at a special session of parliament on Tuesday. For a motion to pass, the Greens must support it.

“I would therefore like to make way in order to end the stalemate, to prevent chaos and to ensure stability,” Kurz said in a statement to the media.

He added that he planned to stay on as party leader and to take over as the leader of its lawmakers in parliament. As party leader, he was proposing Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg to succeed him as chancellor, he said.

The Greens have yet to say whether they would accept Schallenberg.

Austrian media reports before Kurz’s announcement had said he would step down only temporarily. While Kurz did not say that he did say he would mount a legal defense: “Above all … I will, of course, use the opportunity to refute and disprove the accusations that have been made against me.”

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