LONDON (Feb. 17)
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher will order a new inquiry into the wartime deaths of six British commandos to determine whether they were linked to Kurt Waldheim, now president of Austria.
If a link is proved, it will intensify the growing pressure on Waldheim to resign, despite his refusal to do so.
The prime minister’s decision, reported Tuesday evening, means that the Foreign Office and Defense Ministry will re-examine evidence on the deaths of the six men, captured and executed in Greece in 1944.
It follows allegations that Waldheim, then serving in German military counterintelligence, was involved in the fate of the six men. Thatcher has ordered the probe even though a similar examination in 1986 discovered no such link with Austria’s head of state.
Dissatisfaction with the earlier probe has been fueled by disclosures that three Foreign Office files on one of the commandos were destroyed 10 years ago as part of the routine “shredding” or declassification of official documents whew they are 30 years old.
The fresh inquiry was demanded by Robert Rhodes James, a Conservative Party member of Parliament for Cambridge, who worked for Waldheim when he was secretary general of the United Nations. Rhodes James told the Times of London newspaper Monday that there was a “consistent pattern” by successive British governments to cover up the Waldheim records.
According to the U.S. National Archives, one of the British Foreign Office files destroyed 10 years ago connected Waldheim to the interrogation of British commandos in Greece in 1944.
The so-called Alimnia file was recovered after the war and microfilmed by the U.S. government in 1950. A copy handed to the British government was destroyed by the Foreign Office in 1978.
In 1971, Britain first opposed, then supported, Waldheim’s appointment to the post of U.N. secretary general and voted for his second term in 1976.