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Austrians Said to Protest U.S. Remark on Waldheim

December 08, 1987|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Austrian Ambassador Friedrich Hoess on Monday delivered an oral protest to the State Department voicing "dismay" at a Justice Department official's assertion that Austrian President Kurt Waldheim is personally guilty of war crimes, an embassy source said.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hoess delivered his protest in an interview with an aide to Assistant Secretary of State Rozanne L. Ridgway about a letter from Stephen Sher to an international commission of historians the Austrian government has named to study Waldheim's World War II record. Sher is chief of a Justice Department bureau that investigates allegations concerning Nazi war criminals living in this country.

News reports last week said that Sher had informed the commission that the former U.N. secretary general was placed on a "watch list" of prohibited visitors because U.S. and Yugoslav records furnished evidence to "implicate him personally" in the execution of Yugoslav partisans and the deportation of Greek Jews when he was serving with the German army in the Balkans between 1942 and 1945.

"This statement from Mr. Sher does not seem to be in conformity with the explanation given by Atty. Gen. (Edwin) Meese to Chancellor (Franz) Vranitzky earlier this year that proximity to the commission of a war crime is sufficient to place someone on the watch list, and that the United States had no information of personal participation by Mr. Waldheim," the source said.

"We are also astounded that the material the letter was based on has not been delivered to the Austrian government," the source added.

"The reported statement by Mr. Sher that Mr. Waldheim can challenge the record by applying for a U.S. visa is absurd," the source added. "The Austrian federal president as head of state cannot be subjected to legal proceedings under foreign laws."

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