Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky met with President Reagan yesterday, and afterward Reagan announced that Helene von Damm, the White House personnel director, will be nominated as U.S. ambassador to Austria.
Von Damm, 44, who was Reagan's personal secretary while he was governor of California, is a native of Austria. The post has been vacant nearly two years, since the death of former ambassador Theodore Cummings in March, 1981.
The two hours of talks between Kreisky and Reagan focused on the Middle East and Poland, according to American officials. They said Kreisky, who maintains extensive contacts with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, promised Reagan to support U.S. peace initiatives in the Middle East.
At a later news conference Kreisky told reporters that he favors the United States going ahead with Middle East negotiations instead of waiting for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon.
"Personally, I am very skeptical" about an early pullout, Kreisky told reporters. "I think President Reagan is quite optimistic."
Before Kreisky and Reagan met yesterday, Austrian and American officials discussed ways to prevent the flow of American technology through Austria to communist countries. After the leaders met, a U.S. official said the chancellor and the president agreed to measures to "tighten scrutiny to avoid the transfer of technology to a third country."
Reagan asked Kreisky, a critic of U.S. economic sanctions against the Soviet Union and Poland, to help pressure the Soviets to gain the release of Polish political prisoners.
Kreisky and Reagan tried to allay concerns that relations between the two countries are now tense. Kreisky, who is approaching a general election in April, has been accused in Austria of allowing relations with the United States to worsen. But he said in his departure statement, "The relations between the U.S. and Austria are completely without frictions."
After talks with the president, Kreisky had lunch with Reagan, Treasury Secretary Donald T. Regan and Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige. Reagan told Kreisky that an American economic recovery is under way and will help to revive the European economy. Kreisky said Reagan told him he was surprised at European leaders' lack of optimism about the state of the economy.
Earlier yesterday, Reagan attended the National Prayer Breakfast, and said Americans should read the Bible because "inside its pages lie all the answers to all the problems man has ever known." He also agreed to serve as the honorary chairman of the "Year of the Bible" campaign.
Yesterday afternoon Reagan attended a party honoring departing Secretary of Health and Human Services Richard S. Schweiker on his last day in office.