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Austrian Defense Minister Has No Intention of Resigning

Defense Minister Friedhelm Frischenschlager has made clear that he has no intention of resigning in the midst of the political storm he raised by personally greeting Nazi war criminal Walter Reder when he arrived in Austria last Thursday after nearly 40 years in an Italian prison.

The Defense Minister, whose actions severely embarrassed the Socialist-led coalition government, left for Egypt Saturday on a three-day official visit.

In response to demands by some fellow ministers, opposition leaders, army officers and others that he resign, Frischenschlager maintained that the protests aroused by his greeting of Reder were a “grave misrepresentation.”

He told reporters, before his departure for Cairo, that his trip to Graz to meet the former SS major on his return to his native Austria, was necessary to ensure absolute secrecy. But, Frischenschlager claimed, an Italian news agency leaked the story.

The defense chief maintained that his negative attitude toward dictators, war and war criminals was well known. He referred to Reder as a war criminal. Last Thursday, he described Reder as the last Austrian prisoner of war to come home and shook his hand.

Alois Mock, leader of the opposition Peoples Party, said that if Frischenschlager did not resign, his party would submit a motion of non-confidence in the minister in Parliament. An extraordinary session of Parliament, summoned by Mock, will be held Friday to deal with Frischenschlager’s reception of Reder.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Franz Vranitzky was troubled that Frischenschlager’s action would have adverse economic consequences for Austria. He said that Austria’s clearly anti-fascist attitude was always well received by the international financial community but international businessmen have had icey reactions to the Reder affair.

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