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Austria ponders Hitler home options

The Austrian government is looking at options that would allow it to expropriate the house where Adolf Hitler spent his early childhood as it seeks to end a dispute with the owner over its use.

The move is the latest in efforts by the government to ensure that the house is not turned to a use that makes it even more of a shrine for Hitler's admirers.

Municipal officials in Braunau, where the house stands, already complain that it draws neo-Nazi visitors to the town on the border with Germany.

Reacting to reports in local media, interior ministry spokesman Karl-Heinz Grundboeck said his ministry expects expert opinions by the end of the month on expropriation if the owner - a woman authorities refuse to identify - turns down a government offer to buy it.

The interior ministry has rented the house for years to prevent its misuse, subletting it to various charitable organisations. The building has stood empty since a workshop for the mentally disabled moved out more than three years ago.

Local officials say the woman vetoed plans to move in a new charity and a school late last year because she was opposed to renovations that would be required.

"We've tried very hard to find a solution," alderman Harry Buchmayer told the Kurier newspaper. "But she does not seem ready to co-operate."

Mr Grundboeck described expropriation as the "last option", saying the government hoped the owner would agree to sell. She has reportedly turned down past offers.

Among prospective buyers over the past few years was a Russian parliamentarian who threatened to raze it - a plan doomed to fail as the Renaissance-era building is under historical protection.

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