Mayor of Schwarzenegger's hometown begs him «will be back»

The mayor of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian hometown on Tuesday begged the California governor to reconsider his decision to end ties to the city after locals assailed him for his death penalty stance. Siegfried Nagl, mayor of the southern city of Graz, said he dashed off a letter to Schwarzenegger pleading with him not to return a ring of honor bestowed on him by officials in his birthplace in 1999 and reassuring him that most residents still admire him.

"I hope that very soon we'll hear you say, 'I'll be back,"' Nagl told the actor-turned-politician, one of Austria's most famous sons. On Monday, Schwarzenegger caused a stir by turning the tables on Austrians who criticized the governor's refusal to block the executions of convicted killers. He sent Graz officials a letter asking them to remove his name from a soccer stadium and stop using it to promote the city, and said he was giving back the ring because it "has lost its meaning and value to me."

His demands effectively pre-empted a drive launched by opponents in Austria who already were gathering signatures on a petition calling for the 15,300-seat arena to be renamed. The petition drive began last week amid a furor triggered by the execution in California of Stanley Tookie Williams. Capital punishment is illegal in Europe, where many people consider it barbaric. They are now waiting to see how Schwarzenegger deals with the scheduled Jan. 17 execution of a 75-year-old inmate.

"Graz will not have problems in the future with my decisions as governor of California, because officially nothing connects us any more," Schwarzenegger told the daily Kronen Zeitung in an interview for Tuesday's editions. "The death penalty is law here, and I have to uphold the law of the land and the will of the people," Schwarzenegger was quoted as saying, adding that he still considered himself "Austrian with all my heart."

Nagl, the mayor of Graz, about 200 kilometers (120 miles) south of Vienna, accused the Social Democrats, pacifist Greens and others who criticized Schwarzenegger of orchestrating an "embarrassing farce." Most locals, he said, remain proud of Schwarzenegger.

"I will try to explain to him that the majority of Grazers stand behind him," Nagl told Austrian television, describing the letter he was writing to Schwarzenegger. At a minimum, he said, he hoped to persuade Schwarzenegger to keep the ring, though he conceded he didn't think the governor would change his mind. "Those who know him realize he sticks to his opinions," he said. "The chances are not good. I regret this deeply, but I understand", reports the AP. N.U.

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