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Hollande welcomes Van der Bellen victory in Austrian presidential election

Newly elected Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen (L) and FPO candidate Norbet Hofer Reuters/Heinz-Peter Bader

French President François Hollande has congratulated ecologist Alexander Van der Bellen on his narrow victory over far-right candidate Norbert Hofer in Austria's presidential election. Hollande said he hoped for closer cooperation with Austria both bilaterally and in the European Union.

Shortly after it was announced that Van der Bellen had won 50.3 percent of the vote in Austria's presidential election, France's Elysée presidential palace rushed out a statement welcoming the result.

Close cooperation between the two countries should help Europe "face up to the challenges it faces", the statement said.

Van der Bellen beat Hofer, the candidate of the far-right Freedom Party, although he had been behind during the first round of voting.

The victory was announced after the counting of postal votes, which tipped the balance in the former Green leader's favour.

France faces a presidential election next year and Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, is tipped to do well, leading to speculation that she could make it through to the second round.