The probe against Sanader is seen as a crucial move to show the country's committment to battle corruption [AFP]

Ivo Sanader, a former Croatian prime minister, has been arrested on an international warrant, a day after he left the country amid a corruption probe.

An official at the Austrian Federal Office of Criminal Investigations said Sanader was arrested on Friday on the expressway connecting the provinces of Salzburg and Carinthia.

Sanader was then brought to detention facilities of the Salzburg provincial court, said the official.

Sanader has been wanted by crime and corruption investigators for "associating to commit a criminal act and abuse of power," the warrant said.

Sanader, 57, crossed into neighbouring Slovenia on Thursday, just hours before parliament stripped him of immunity at the prosecutors' request, paving the way for his detention.

A Zagreb court judge had ordered a one-month detention for Sanader since "he is on the run and due to the danger of influencing witnesses".

"It is a small step for democracy but a giant and decisive leap for Croatia. For the first time such a high official will be most likely charged"

Damir Grubisa, political analyst

Meanwhile, police were searching Sanader's house in downtown Zagreb on Friday.

Sanader, Croatia's first prime minister to be probed for corruption, led the former Yugoslav republic from 2003 to 2009.

Taking the HDZ helm in 2000, he steered the party away from the nationalist bent it had under late president Franjo Tudjman and put it among Europe's mainstream conservatives.

But Croatian media have repeatedly linked him with corruption.

The probe against Sanader is seen as a crucial move to show the country's committment to battle corruption in line with the European Union's standards, as it hopes to complete EU entry talks early next year.

Globally it is "nothing new or sensational," but for Croatia it is a "giant" step, commented Damir Grubisa, a political analyst.

"It is a small step for democracy but a giant and decisive leap for Croatia. For the first time such a high official will be most likely charged," he said.

Earlier in the week, a Zagreb court sentenced Berislav Roncevic, the country's former defence minister, to four years in prison after he was found guilty of graft. 

Source: Agencies