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Vienna (JTA) — President-
elect Kurt Waldheim pledged
last week to "make particular ef-
forts to open up a dialogue,
especially with our Jewish cit-
izens"and"to make every at-
tempt to counteract all forms of
religious, racial or ethnic dis-
Waldheim spoke at his first
press conference since winning
the Presidential run-off elections
after a campaign in which anti-
Semitic' feelings were aroused
among the electorate. This was
seen as a backlash against
charges by Jewish and non-
Jewish groups abroad, backed
by substantial documentary
evidence, that Waldheim was in-
volved in war crimes when he
served as a Wehrmacht intel-
ligence officer in the Balkans
during World War II.
The President-elect, who will
be sworn into the largely cere-
monial office on July 8, made
scant reference to the controver-
sy surrounding his alleged Nazi
past. Asked how he defined
Jews, the former United Nations
Secretary General replied, "They
are citizens exactly like the
others. In our country it's a
religious minority, a minority
like the Croats or Slovaks."
He pledged to "stand up for a
policy that secures Israel's right
to exist and predicted that Israel
would continue to maintain good
relations with Austria once it is
proven that there was "nothing"
reprehensible in his past. Israel
reacted to Waldheim's election
by recalling its Ambassador to
Vienna, Michael Elitzur.
Waldheim said he saw "no
problems" in being received
abroad as Austria's head of
State, observing that he knew
"most of the heads of state and
government personally." The
U.S. Department of Justice is
considering a recommendation
by the head of its Office of
special Investigation (OSI), Neal
Sher, that Waldheim be placed
on the "watch list" barring in-
dividuals accused of war crimes
from entering the U.S. But even
if the Justice Department ag-
rees, Waldheim would be im-
mune to the ban for his six year
tenure as President of Austria.
Waldheim's election is being
interpreted by political observ-
ers here as less a vote of con-
fidence in Waldheim, a man ac-
cused of war crimes, than a pro-
test against the socialist-led
Chancelor Fred Sinowatz,
leader of the Socialist-Liberal
coalition, resigned 24 hours after
Waldheim defeated his Socialist
rival, Kurt Steyrer by 54 to 46
percent, one of the largest
pluralities ever recorded in an
Austrian. Presidential election.
Sinowatz was promptly suc-
ceeded by Finance Minister
Franz Vranitzky, a 49-year old
banker considered a pragmatist
of the Socialist right wing. He
had formely served 12 years as
Minister for Education and