Report: Minister Says U.S. Diplomat Was Suspected in the 1970s
VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ A U.S. diplomat suspected of collaborating with the Soviets first aroused American suspicions in the 1970s, but apparently no action was taken, Austria’s foreign minister was quoted as saying Sunday.
The tabloid Kurier quoted Foreign Minister Alois Mock as saying he was ″shattered″ when he heard that his close friend, U.S. diplomat Felix S. Bloch, was suspected of collaborating with Soviet agents in Vienna.
Sources in Washington said Saturday that Bloch, who has not been charged with any crime, had access to some of the United States’ most sensitive non- nuclear secrets. Bloch, former deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Austria, is the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat ever identifed as the target of an intelligence investigation involving the Soviet Union.
Mock, who studied with Bloch at the Bologna Center of Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University in 1957 and 1958, said he first heard about suspicions regarding Bloch three weeks ago ″through Austrian channels,″ the tabloid said.
″I’m deeply shaken and really shattered,″ Mock was quoted as saying.
He said he could not have unwittingly passed sensitive information to Bloch. ″I was very careful there,″ said Mock, who on Friday abruptly postponed a visit to the United States this week ″for personal reasons.″
Kurier quoted Mock as speaking of ″a certain suspicion on the U.S. side reaching back into the 1970s.″ He refused to provide details.
But he said that if such suspicions existed, ″it’s quite inexplicable how Bloch could stay in such high posts,″ according to the tabloid.
Mock was in the west Austrian city of Bregenz on Sunday and could not be reached for comment. A man answering the telephone at the Foreign Ministry in Vienna refused to comment on the report or to connect a reporter with a spokesman who would.
Kurier said the minister described Bloch as ″an over-ambitious career diplomat″ who ″always suffered that he had to serve under political appointees and never got to be an ambassador himself.″
One of the ambassadors Bloch served was Helene von Damm, an Austrian-born appointee of President Reagan, who caused a scandal in Viennese society by marrying Peter Guertler, owner of the city’s famed Hotel Sacher.
Ms. von Damm, who was not reachable at her Vienna residence Sunday, resigned in June 1985, citing speculation that her marriage constituted a conflict of interest with her diplomatic duties.
Bloch came to Vienna in 1980 as head of the embassy’s economics section and was later appointed deputy chief of mission. He ran the Vienna embassy after Ms. von Damm’s resignation until Ronald S. Lauder arrived in April 1986.
Lauder said Saturday that he demanded that Bloch be recalled in the summer of 1987 because ″he went outside of channels ... he went around me″ in dealing with the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
Bloch was too close to the Austrian government and ″extremely close to the foreign minister,″ Lauder said.
Relations between the United States and Austria were strained at the time of Bloch’s recall over the U.S. decision to place President Kurt Waldheim on a Watch List of persons barred from entering the United States.
That decision, announced in May 1987, resulted from Waldheim’s World War II past as a German soldier with the Nazis in the Balkans. Waldheim had kept his Balkans service a secret until 1986, when Austrian and U.S. media and the World Jewish Congress disclosed it during a bitter presidential campaign in Austria.
Waldheim has consistently denied any wrongdoing in the Balkans.
Mock, who until recently was leader of the conservative People’s Party, has been one of Waldheim’s staunchest backers and recently launched another effort to try to get the president removed from the Watch List.