VIENNA, FEB. 16 -- Socialist Chancellor Franz Vranitzky said today his coalition government will survive its deep split over President Kurt Waldheim's wartime past, but he said the issue is isolating Austria from the rest of the world.
Waldheim, meanwhile, announced he would sue the West German magazine Der Spiegel, which printed a copy of a document purportedly linking him to the deportation of civilians in World War II. The magazine later retracted the story.
Vranitzky repeated his threat to resign if the Waldheim affair continued to dominate the chancellor's duties. However, after meeting with Vice Chancellor Alois Mock, head of the conservative People's Party, Vranitzky told reporters, "We have clearly affirmed the intention to have this government continue."
A poll conducted for the conservative Vienna daily Die Presse reflected rising public pressure for Waldheim to resign. The telephone poll was based on interviews with 440 Austrians. Forty-six percent were against resignation and 37 were in favor, it said. Two weeks ago, a similar poll said 72 percent of those surveyed opposed Waldheim's resignation.
Forty-five percent of those polled said they wouldn't vote for Waldheim if an election were held on Sunday, while 34 percent said they would.
Vranitzky's statement seemed designed to quell speculation that the coalition government might unravel because of sharp divisons over Waldheim. The chancellor runs the government in Austria, while the presidency is largely ceremonial. The Socialists are the senior partner in the coalition with the People's Party, which backed Waldheim for president in 1986.
Vranitzky criticized Waldheim for what he said was a failure to take a clear stand on key points of a historians' report that last week fueled the furor around Waldheim's war record.
The 202-page document said Waldheim was "in close proximity" to Nazi atrocities as a lieutenant in the German Army in the Balkans during World War II. Waldheim ruled out his resignation in a televised speech yesterday and appealed for unity.
Mock, one of Waldheim's staunchest backers, said the president's speech "offered dialogue and said clearly he is conscious of his integral role."
But Vranitzky repeated his threat to resign, saying he can only lead "in good conscience . . . if the working conditions are such to allow me to assume these obligations in a responsible way." He also voiced concern about the impact of the affair on Austria's tourism, economy and its relations with other western countries.
Major U.S. travel operators are flying Americans to Budapest rather than Vienna, he said, adding: "Our business people cannot be easy about that."
Referring to Austrian efforts to establish closer trade links with the European Community, Vranitzky noted, "We can't be indifferent to the fact that in the whole year 1987, only two government leaders visited us." The Soviet and Liechtenstein premiers were in Austria last year.
Waldheim's spokesman, Gerold Christian, said it was unclear exactly on what charges Waldheim planned to sue Der Spiegel. Under Austrian law, the president must instruct state prosecutors to begin any legal proceedings on his behalf. Der Spiegel published a telegram allegedly linking Waldheim to the deportation of 4,000 civilians in 1942. Its current issue apologized for publishing what was "most probably a fake."