British officials said today that their government is not proposing any special celebrations commemorating the 40th anniversary of the end of the war against Nazi Germany but has not ruled out taking part in events organized by others.
Foreign Office officials stated the government policy in response to press reports here today that the British government had vetoed any VE-Day ceremonies May 8 for fear of offending the West German government, which has been a staunch NATO ally during the post-World War II era.
Officials in several European countries have acknowledged privately that the question of whether to celebrate the anniversary of the end of the war in Europe is a very sensitive one.
Officials said no one wanted a repeat of the strain caused last year by the dramatic, globally televised commemoration of the 1944 Allied invasion at Normandy that excluded the current West German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, but included all the current leaders of the countries that fought the German-Italian-Japanese Axis.
British officials said they had no information as to whether there was a quiet but coordinated allied policy involving the United States, France and Britain not to have any major VE-Day celebrations.
It is expected, however, that there will be a commemoration of the event in West Germany. Officials indicated that there could be a joint marking of the event linked to the forthcoming annual seven-nation economic summit in Bonn May 2-4, that would bring together the wartime allies, Japan and West Germany in a venue that suggests postwar unity rather than wartime enmity. West German officials have indicated that they would like to see a joint declaration by the leaders at the summit stressing the western values of democracy and freedom in the postwar era.
The French consider that the key anniversary for them was last year, which marked the 40th anniversary of the invasion and liberation of France, and no further official celebrations are planned there.
British officials said their practice is to mark the 25th or 50th anniversary of events.
The Soviet Union is viewed as certain to have a major commemoration of the anniversary.
The British officials said that their policy was stated before Parliament Nov. 26, when a junior minister, in response to a question, said, "We have no present plans for any British celebration of this anniversary."
The issue was revived today when the Daily Mail newspaper reported on portions of a letter from Nancy Young, a government minister of state in the House of Lords, to another member of Parliament's request for information about policy.
Foreign Office officials said the newspaper misrepresented Young's reply by selectively quoting passages that suggested a government refusal to mark the day. The news report said this would outrage British veterans and families of those killed in the war.
The Young letter, as quoted by the newspaper, said: "I see a real risk that any official British international celebration confined to wartime allies could appear at best nostalgic and at worst anti-German, unbalanced and open to historical distortions by the Soviet Union."
But the letter, according to the Foreign Office, also says the government "looks forward to considering how best the British government could be involved in celebrations" organized by others.