Austria has received 5,100 Iranian Jewish refugees since July, 1983, of whom more than a quarter, or 1,483, arrived during the first eight months of this year, Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock disclosed Friday.
Mock told reporters that the exodus of the refugee Jews has been accomplished with the quiet cooperation of the fundamentalist Islamic regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the neighboring Islamic state of Pakistan.
"Some of them may have come across the border secretly, but I cannot imagine they all did," the Austrian official said. "There has been no problem from the side of the Iranian authorities, and sometimes it's better if you don't speak about these things."
Austria's President Kurt Waldheim, who has been under attack by world Jewish organizations because of his alleged ties to Nazi war crimes committed in the Balkans during World War II, will visit Pakistan next month and will discuss the continuation of the Jewish refugee program, Mock said. He denied that Austria was making the Iranian emigration matter public to improve Waldheim's image.
"It is the permanent policy of Austria to provide refuge to people from anywhere," Mock said.
Since his election last year, Waldheim has made official visits only to Jordan and the Vatican, and his reception by Pope John Paul II aroused wide protests. But Mock said that Waldheim has now been invited to pay official visits to Hungary and Romania and that two Western European countries have extended him invitations, although he declined to name them.
Mock said he has met with three Jewish organizations during his current visit to the United States and that two of them did not even raise the subject of Waldheim's war record. He reported that representatives of B'nai B'rith in Washington and of the New York-based Jewish refugee organization, RAVTOF, "came to express gratitude for Austria's assistance in getting 260,000 Jewish refugees out of Eastern Europe."
Key Transit Point
Vienna is the chief transit point for Jewish refugees from the East Bloc seeking to emigrate to Israel or to the West.
Representatives of a third organization, the American Jewish Committee, wanted to discuss Waldheim's reported links with Nazi war crimes, Mock said.
"We talked for 1 1/2 hours, and several of the (American Jewish Committee) participants did not agree with me," the foreign minister said, "but I was impressed with their fairness."
He said the Austrian government has no concern about the possible opening of War Crimes Commission files relating to Waldheim that are are stored in United Nations custody. The 17-nation commission has not made the records public but is considering doing so.
Mock said that former Austrian President Rudolf Kirschschlager reviewed the commission's files on Waldheim after the Justice Department put the former U.N. secretary general on its "watch list" of persons barred from the United States because of his alleged role in Nazi atrocities. Kirschschlager, a former judge, found no grounds to support criminal charges, Mock said.
"It's been going on for a year and a half and there is no proof, no piece of paper," Mock said of the tide of allegations against Waldheim.
Israel withdrew its ambassador from Vienna after the United States barred Waldheim, and Austria reciprocated. But Mock said the that two countries might return their envoys to their respective posts within six months.