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Peres Orders Legal Analysis of the Charges Against Waldheim

Premier Shimon Peres said Sunday he has instructed the Justice Ministry to collect all information pertaining to the allegations concerning Austrian Presidential candidate Kurt Waldheim’s war-time activities as a Wehrmacht officer and to conduct a thorough legal analysis of the charges against the former UN Secretary General.

“We are not a newspaper, we are not an institution,” Peres declared in an address to students from development towns meeting at the Hebrew University. “We are a government. We must give an answer both serious and substantiated. And if indeed the legal material which we collect and analyze proves that Kurt Waldheim served in the Nazi army and acted against partisans or Jews, we shall draw from this all the appropriate conclusions.”

Waldheim, whose Presidential campaign has been dogged by allegations that he participated in Nazi war crimes, missed victory in the election Sunday and will face a run-off election on June 8. Waldheim, the candidate of the conservative People’s Party, received 49.66 percent of the vote against 43.66 percent for his Socialist rival, Kurt Steyrer. A vote of 50 percent or more is required to avoid a run-off.

Israel has remained cautious in the Waldheim matter, although it did request and received last month a file on Waldheim from the archives of the UN War Crimes Commission. Waldheim has denied participation in atrocities against Yugoslav partisans, although he conceded knowledge of such actions by the Nazis. He denied knowledge of the deportation of Greek Jews from Salonika and elsewhere while he was an intelligence officer in the Balkans.

ISSUE OF NEW ISRAELI ENVOY TO AUSTRIA

Israel Defense Force radio reported Monday that if Waldheim is elected President of Austria, the Foreign Ministry will delay the dispatch of a new Ambassador to replace Michael Elitzur, the present Ambassador in Vienna, who is due to end his term of service there this summer. This, the radio report said, would be done to avoid the presentation of Israeli credentials of a new Ambassador to a head of state with a past linked to the Nazis.

Meanwhile, several hundred youths demonstrated outside the Austrian Embassy in Tel Aviv Monday, pointing out that they were protesting on the eve of Yom Hashoah against the election to the Austrian Presidency of a man with an alleged Nazi past. They presented a petition to Austrian Ambassador Otto Kleinhardt, asking how it was possible to elect a man said to have been associated with the Nazis and asking how he expected Israel to react to such a development.

The Ambassador said he could not answer the questions or any questions concerning the elections, but promised to transmit the petition to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.

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