VIENNA, Jan. 22 -- The Austrian parliament today rebuffed President Kurt Waldheim over his Nazi past, preventing him from addressing the body in a commemorative ceremony scheduled for March.
The four parties in parliament decided against a joint session of its two chambers -- which Waldheim would, by custom, have addressed -- when Austria marks the 50th anniversary of its annexation by Nazi Germany on March 11. Deputies of the ruling Socialist Party and the environmentalist Greens forced parliamentary leaders to schedule a memorial meeting outside the chambers that Waldheim may attend but not address.
In a quick response by Waldheim and his supporters, a government declaration said Waldheim will address his own guests and supporters in a special ceremony at his official Hofburg Palace. Socialist Chancellor Fritz Vranitzky and the conservative deputy chancellor, Alois Mock, will be present.
Waldheim's World War II role -- as an officer in a German Army unit that committed war crimes in the Balkan states -- has led many nations, including the United States, to refuse to receive him. A government-funded panel of historians is to report next month on its investigation of whether Waldheim was involved in the crimes. The historians are scheduled to question Waldheim, but he has said he will meet them only "for tea."