Conservative Thomas Klestil elected president of Austria


VIENNA, Austria -- Thomas Klestil, the chief of Austria's diplomatic corps and a former ambassador to the United States, was elected yesterday to succeed President Kurt Waldheim, whose record as an officer in Hitler's army isolated the country diplomatically for six years.

In a runoff between the top two candidates to emerge from initial voting last month, Mr. Klestil, the 59-year-old candidate of the conservative People's Party, received more than 56 percent of the votes, against about 43 percent for Rudolf Streicher, the Social Democratic candidate and a former minister of transport and state industries.

The results for the largely ceremonial presidency were based on preliminary tallies of all votes except those cast by Austrians abroad.

Mr. Klestil, who was an almost unknown career diplomat when he was nominated, scored the highest percentage of any presidential candidate since World War II.

Mr. Waldheim has been ostracized politically because he served as an intelligence officer for the German army in World War II and then covered up his activities when they became public in 1986.

The isolation may end when Mr. Klestil's term begins July 8.

"I intend as soon as possible after my inauguration to engage the neighboring countries and most important European Community countries in short working visits," Mr. Klestil told Austrian Radio last evening.

He said he would also try -- as he did in 1986 when he was ambassador to the United States -- to convince the United States of what he called the unjust decision to bar Mr. Waldheim as an undesirable alien.

The election results show that Mr. Klestil succeeded in picking up nearly all the votes that had gone to the far-right Freedom Party candidate, Heide Schmidt, in the first vote, on April 26.

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