BONN, FEB. 13 -- Austrian President Kurt Waldheim said this week that he was not surprised by criticisms of him in an international historians' commission report on his World War II record because of his belief that there were three Jews on the commission, two informed sources in Vienna said.

The commission's staff expert, Hagen Fleischer, said in a telephone interview from Greece this evening that he also had heard from "a very responsible source" that Waldheim had made the comment.

Waldheim made the remark during a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky and Vice Chancellor Alois Mock, the two sources in Vienna said. Both sources were in a position to know the substance of the conversation, and spoke on condition that they remain unidentified.

Government spokesmen denied that Waldheim had made the statement after an account of it was reported on Monday by ABC News. But a highly placed source said, "We're denying it publicly, {but} it's true, unfortunately."

Waldheim erred in saying that there were three Jews on the panel of six historians. The only Jewish members were Jehoda Wallach of Israel and Gerald Fleming of Britain, according to Fleischer and commission chairman Hans Rudolf Kurz of Switzerland.

"Maybe he considered me as a Jew," Fleischer, who is of dual German-Greek nationality, said. "The name Fleischer could be Jewish."

The commission strongly criticized Waldheim for having sought to conceal his role as a German Army lieutenant serving with a unit that carried out war crimes in the Balkans from 1942 to 1945. The panel found no evidence that Waldheim bore personal guilt for war crimes, but it said that he could have opposed them.