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Austrian gov't postpones sale of mountain peaks

VIENNA — Austria's government on Tuesday postponed the planned sale of two alpine summits after an outpouring of national outrage.

Austria's privatization agency announced a decision after an emergency meeting between Economics Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner and top officials in charge of selling of national property to the private sector.

"We have suspended the sale to evaluate alternative possibilities," agency spokesman Ernst Eichinger said on the telephone.

He said the transaction would likely go ahead but buyers would be restricted to "Austrian institutions" instead of the highest free-market bidders.

The peaks are in the easternmost part of Tyrol province, home to some of Europe's highest mountain ranges.

The "Rosskopf" is over 8,500 feet high, the "Grosse Kinigat" nearly 8,800 feet. They are on offer for 121,000 euros — nearly $175,000.

Austria is fiercely proud of its alpine ranges — its national hymn begins with the worlds "Land of Mountains" — and news over the weekend that the two summits were up for sale next month quickly went viral.

Local and opposition politicians had also spoken out against the deal, and Eichinger says his office was bombarded with calls and emails with contents ranging from "indignation to abuse."