VIENNA, FEB. 22 -- Chancellor Franz Vranitzky's Socialist Party said today that controversy over the wartime record of Kurt Waldheim made it impossible for him to continue as Austria's president and called for talks aimed at replacing him.

It was the strongest statement yet by the party that it is the major partner in the coalition government and was seen as a major blow to Waldheim's hopes of remaining in office.

"The current dreadful situation cannot continue," Socialist Party leader Fred Sinowatz said, presenting a statement agreed to unanimously by the party executive, including Vranitzky. The party called on its Conservative coalition partners to discuss "a new beginning" for the presidency.

The statement amounted to a resignation appeal. Waldheim has vowed to stay in office despite the finding of a historical commission, established at his behest, that he facilitated Nazi war crimes.

Sinowatz said the commission report had "severely shaken" the president's moral authority both at home and abroad. "It has become obvious that President Waldheim cannot effect the most important aims which he set himself, namely to serve inner peace in Austria and to increase Austria's reputation in the world," he said.

Waldheim had promised to restore his own credibility, to be a strong president and to bring the country together, Sinowatz said. But he had failed in all three aims.

The Socialist Party executive, reinforcing statements by both that party's politicians and members of the conservative People's Party, said it was primarily up to Waldheim to take a decision "oriented towards the state interests of Austria and the preservation of domestic peace.

"And it {the Socialist Party} is prepared, jointly with the Austrian People's Party, to seek the way for a new beginning in the office of the president."

Political analysts said Waldheim would be unlikely to remain in office if the conservatives asked him to go. If he did refuse to resign, however, the road to impeachment would involve a national referendum, whose wording would have to be decided by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament.

An opinion poll published in yesterday's mass daily Krone indicated 53 percent of Austrians would definitely or probably vote against Waldheim if elections were held.