VIENNA — President Kurt Waldheim said Monday that he wants Chancellor Franz Vranitzky to appoint a commission of military historians to investigate his wartime past and added that he plans to take legal action in America and Austria over allegations that he was involved in Nazi crimes during World War II.
In an Austrian television interview, the former U.N. secretary general said he has directed attorneys in the United States and Austria "to determine in which concrete form we can file" lawsuits over the allegations that grew out of Waldheim's service with the German army in the Balkans.
"Outrageous defamations have been advanced, and it is time that one takes steps against these defamations by legal means," said the president, without saying who he might sue.
He was asked if the news media might be involved in possible lawsuits and he replied, "That will become clear in the course of contacts I have with my legal advisers in America, and, of course, also in Austria."
Last week, after a lengthy inquiry by U.S. officials, Waldheim was put on the "watch list" of undesirable aliens, a step that effectively bars him from visiting the United States as a private individual.
Waldheim said he had wanted to avoid interference in the American inquiry, "but now there is no reason any more against undertaking the necessary steps."
In Washington, a Justice Department spokesman said Monday that if Waldheim wanted to take legal action, it would be appropriate and within his rights.
Waldheim said a "white book" on his wartime activities had been completed by himself, his associates and historians and was handed to Vranitzky last week. It is expected to be published within the next two weeks.
In the television interview, Waldheim said, "We will decide" who is selected for the commission of inquiry and added, "I would like representatives from abroad to take part in such a commission of military historians--Americans, Britons, Frenchmen, Germans--all who know the military hierarchy."
Waldheim's spokesman, Gerold Christian, later said that Waldheim would also agree to have historians from Greece, Yugoslavia and Israel on the commission. No date for appointing the panel was mentioned.
But famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, head of the Jewish Documentation Center here, said earlier that if the commission was named and controlled by the Austrians, its findings would be meaningless.