As the United Nations gears up for its jubilee celebrations next year, Kurt Waldheim is desperately trying to join the party.
But Jewish groups see little chance that the former U.N. secretary-general, barred from the United States since 1987 for wartime Nazi activities, will be invited.
“I don’t think anybody at the top leadership of the U.N. really needs or wants Kurt Waldheim,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “But this guy has no shortage of chutzpah,” Cooper said.
If Waldheim, a former president of Austria, does win an invitation, U.S. officials say they will work to bar his entrance. “We’ll fight his entry into the United States,” said John Russell, a Justice Department spokesman.
Waldheim, who as secretary-general from 1972 to 1982 oversaw the world body’s deepest hostility against Israel, has been lobbying Arab states in hopes of getting an invitation, according to the Reuters news agency.
The issue was reportedly raised at a recent meeting of Arab representatives at the United Nations.
The U.N. official overseeing the celebrations has suggested that Waldheim might be able to participate in the festivities at U.N. offices in his native Austria.
More likely, say observers, is that Waldheim’s efforts will succeed in scuttling an invitation to the only other living former secretary-general, Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru. Any participation by Waldheim, who served as a lieutenant in the German army, in celebrations of the world body founded in 1945 by the anti-Nazi Allies, would be fraught with ironies.
Not least among them is still unresolved charges, brought by the postwar Yugoslavian government, that he assisted in the deportation of Jews and Serbs from German-occupied Bosnia during the war.