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Former Croatia PM under arrest

Croatia's former prime minister was arrested in Austria on an international warrant a day after he left his home country amid a corruption probe.

Ivo Sanader was taken into custody on the road connecting the provinces of Salzburg and Carinthia, then brought to Salzburg's provincial court, said Alexander Marakovits, a spokesman for the Austrian Federal Office of Criminal Investigations.

The arrest came after "intense co-operation" between Croatian, Austrian and German authorities that began in the early hours of Friday, he said.

Sanader, who abruptly resigned as prime minister 17 months ago, left Croatia on Thursday, when it became clear that prosecutors wanted to investigate him.

Croatia's Office for Suppression of Organised Crime and Corruption said Sanader was suspected of conspiring to commit crimes and abuse of office. It did not disclose details of the investigation, but at its request the Zagreb district court ordered Sanader to be detained for 30 days.

Sanader is the highest-ranking official to be charged with a crime since Croatia became independent in 1991.

Once hailed at home and abroad for uprooting the nationalism that reigned in Croatia in the 1990s and making it pro-Western, Sanader's biographical information and his photo appeared on Croatian police and Interpol wanted lists.

The former prime minister has a company in Austria and has visited the US to speak at Columbia University's Harriman Institute, which focuses on countries of the former Soviet Union, East Central Europe and the Balkans.

Barbara Feichtiger, a spokeswoman for the Salzburg public prosecutor's office, said Sanader's brother, an Austrian citizen, was with him at the time of his arrest, but was not detained. It was unclear how long Sanader would remain in Austrian custody.

Several former government officials and businessmen - including Sanader's closest allies as prime minister - have been jailed as Sanader's successor, prime minister Jadranka Kosor, works to fight top-level corruption - a key condition for Croatia's entry into the European Union. Croatia hopes to join the bloc in 2012.

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