AMMAN, Jordan — Jordanians welcomed Austrian President Kurt Waldheim today with full military honors and a 21-gun salute, describing him as a "noble victim . . . of Zionist terrorism and prejudice" because of Jewish charges he covered up a Nazi past.
Austrian and Jordanian flags and other banners were draped throughout the capital, and small crowds and an occasional band lined streets to greet Waldheim, who received none of the fierce protests in Jordan that accompanied his Vatican audience last week with Pope John Paul II.
"Long live the friendship between the people of Austria and Jordan," banners stretched across capital boulevards proclaimed in German and Arabic. Six-foot-tall photos of Waldheim and Jordan's King Hussein also were hung prominently around the city.
The only apparent opposition came from Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld, who went to the royal palace to drop off documents she says proves Waldheim is guilty of World War II war crimes.
Refused Meeting With King
"In Rome there were many different demonstrations," said Klarsfeld, who said she was refused a request to meet personally with Hussein. "Here, I am the only person protesting."
Klarsfeld said she delivered a copy of a report, "Kurt Waldheim's hidden past," compiled by the World Jewish Congress, which alleges that the former U.N. secretary general is guilty of complicity in World War II executions in the Balkans and deportations of 40,000 Greek Jews to Nazi death camps.
Hussein became the first world leader to invite Waldheim for a state visit after his election to the largely ceremonial Austrian post in June, 1986. The king greeted Waldheim warmly as he stepped from his jet onto a red carpet at the Amman military airport.
The two chatted briefly, clasping each other's shoulders, as a military band played. In a special show of military honors, four Jordanian Mirage jets flew over as Waldheim and the king inspected troops.
Linked to Nazi Atrocities
Waldheim has been scorned by many world leaders for concealing his World War II role as in intelligence officer in a German army unit linked to Nazi atrocities. He claims that he did not know about the atrocities and was only a translator in the unit.
Waldheim's visit last week with the Pope--his first official state visit since his 1986 election--was overshadowed by renewed bitter feelings over the Austrian president's war past.
In April, Waldheim was formally barred from entering the United States for his alleged links to Nazi atrocities. It was the first time the United States has barred a friendly nation's head of state.
Jordanian newspapers this week universally dismissed the war crimes allegations and wrote favorably about the visit.
"We welcome Waldheim as a struggler against genuine terrorism and as a courageous representative of his country's deeds, principles and culture," wrote the political editor of the Al Rai newspaper.
"We call upon our people who believe in freedom to rally in the streets and give him his deserved welcome. This noble victim is no different than millions of Palestinians who are victims of Zionist terrorism," he wrote.
Waldheim, who last visited Jordan in 1979 as U.N. secretary general, has said he would discuss efforts toward peace in the Middle East and other issues during the state visit. Waldheim is viewed warmly in the Arab world for his efforts to end the Arab-Israeli conflict during his 1972-82 term at the United Nations.
In addition to a formal state dinner at the royal palace, Waldheim also is expected to hold two rounds of talks with the king during the four-day visit.