VIENNA (Feb. 10)
Two days after an international panel of historians issued a report severely critical of Kurt Waldheim’s wartime activities, the Austrian president received the first head of state to visit him since he took office nearly two years ago.
King Hussein of Jordan, accompanied by his wife, Queen Noor, arrived Wednesday on a four-day state visit. It ended the diplomatic isolation that has marked Waldheim’s presidency because of his alleged link to deportations and atrocities while serving as a German army officer in the Balkans during World War II.
The Austrian news media clashed, meanwhile, along party lines, over whether the panel of distinguished scholars condemned Waldheim in its report or exonerated him. The report sharply criticized Waldheim for failing to disobey clearly inhumane and illegal orders, as some other officers did without suffering personal reprisals.
It found that he lied to conceal his Nazi past and while there was “no proof” that he committed war crimes, he knew they were being committed.
Neither of the governing coalition partners, the Socialist Party and the conservative People’s Party, has taken an official stand on Waldheim’s future. Heinrich Keller, secretary general of the Socialist Party, rejected suggestions that the report on Waldheim endangered the coalition.
‘NO CRISIS OF GOVERNMENT’
“There is no crisis of the government, there is a crisis of the federal president,” Keller said.
But former Socialist Chancellor Bruno Kreisky demanded that Waldheim resign because he had lied to the Austrian people and to the world. In a speech to party functionaries, Kreisky said he was gravely concerned about Austria’s international standing.
Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, Kreisky’s successor, said he shared that concern.
Keller said the historians’ report did not incriminate Waldheim, but Waldheim has incriminated himself by failing to retract his statement that he was only doing his duty during the war.
Opposition politicians were more critical of the president. Joerg Haider of the center-right Freedom Party said his party had all along distanced itself from Waldheim and that position was proved correct. He did not call for resignation, but stressed that Waldheim had been careless with the truth.
The sharpest criticism came from Walther Geyer, parliamentary spokesman of the Green Party. He said the report did not clear Waldheim and that he should resign.