VIENNA (Jul. 9)
Kurt Waldheim said at his first press conference following his inauguration as President of Austria Tuesday that he would “welcome” the suggestion by Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal to have an international committee investigate his past.
Waldheim, who has been linked to atrocities against civilians and the deportation of Greek Jews when he was a Wehrmacht intelligence officer in the Balkans during World War II, had only one condition. He said he would agree to an investigation if the international body includes military experts familiar with the hierarchy of the German army and the way it operated during the war.
His defense against charges of war crimes based on a growing body of documentary evidence brought to light over the last four months, is that he was a small cog in the German military machine simply passing on intelligence to his superiors.
The new Austrian President told the press conference that he has no immediate plans to travel abroad but that his first trip probably will be to the U.S. Asked about recommendations by U.S. Justice Department officials that he be placed in the “watch list” of aliens excludable from entry into the U.S., Waldheim said he was “confident in the judgement” of Attorney General Edwin Meese.
He maintained that “no proof whatsoever has been presented about the various allegations made against me and I trust the Attorney General to check the facts. ” He said he was grateful to President Reagan for his recent statement that no proof of the allegations has been forthcoming.
Asked if he plans to establish contact with Austria’s Jewish community, Waldheim said “I already have such contacts but I hope to further intensify them.” He also predicted that Israel’s Ambassador to Austria, Michael Elitzur, who was called home when Waldheim was elected on June 8, “will eventually return to Vienna.”