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Waldheim New UN Secretary General

December 23, 1971
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli officials declined comment today on the selection of Kurt Waldheim of Austria as the United Nations’ new Secretary General. Waldheim, 53 yesterday, was agreed on by the Security Council yesterday afternoon and confirmed by the General Assembly this morning.

Max Jakobson of Finland, son of a Jewish father and a converted mother, who became the first announced candidate 11 months ago just after Secretary General U Thant indicated his decision not to serve another term, was long considered the leading candidate. Thant of Burma retires Dec. 31 after a decade as the UN’s chief executive.

Although the US reportedly would have preferred the activist Finn to the more cautious Austrian, the Soviet view was just the opposite; furthermore, the Kremlin is believed to be still smarting from a book Dr. Jakobson wrote about 10 years ago in which he criticized aspects of Soviet policy.

Waldheim, on the other hand, had Soviet backing. In addition, China’s agreement to abstain in the Council vote rather than automatically oppose a Soviet favorite would appear to add to the impression that Waldheim’s victory was a Soviet victory as well.


Waldheim was born near Vienna and educated at the Consular Academy of the University of Vienna. He entered the Foreign Service in 1945, and was stationed in Paris from 1948 to 1951. The diplomat became Austria’s UN observer in 1955, and the next year joined its Assembly delegation as Austria joined the UN.

He was minister (later Ambassador) to Canada during 1956-60 and political chief of the Foreign Affairs Ministry 1960-64. He then headed his country’s UN delegation, a post he has held since 1964 except for the 1968-70 period, when he was Austrian Foreign Minister. This past spring he ran for President of Austria on the ticket of the People’s Party (conservative), drawing 47 percent of the vote in a losing cause.

On the question of Jewish emigration from the USSR, Informed sources said the Austrians have been “extremely careful, bland and vague” publicly, although they are “privately sympathetic.” But they indicated that no Secretary General would be able to take an activist approach on this matter, because of the sensitivity of the major powers to “interference” with their “prerogatives.”

(Dr. Jakobson, in fact, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency several months ago that he considered emigration to be an “internal” matter. Advocates of greater UN action, on the other hand, stress Article 13, Section 2 of the Charter, which provides that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own….”)

The sources said that while Waldheim apparently could not be accused of anti-Jewish prejudices, as an Austrian he might consider it diplomatically advisable not to anger the Soviets, not only because they backed his candidacy but because Austria is in large part dependant on their economic aid.

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