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The BBC's Fergus Nicoll
"They have had to wait almost 60 years"
 real 56k

Friday, 18 May, 2001, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Schroeder optimistic over Nazi payouts
Entrance to Auschwitz
Over one million people are eligible for payments

By Rob Broomby in Berlin

Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the country's chief negotiator in the Nazi era slave labour compensation talks have given an upbeat assessment of the chances of victims receiving a long-awaited payment for their suffering in the next few months.

Speaking to the press in Berlin both men welcomed an appeal court ruling in America which should help pave the way for a pay out.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Chancellor Schroeder: delighted with the arrangement
Earlier in the week it seemed as if the deal whereby the German government and industry will jointly establish a four-point-six billion dollar compensation fund was about to unravel.

It is now almost 60 years since the crimes were committed.

The German firms have been seeking a guarantee against future legal claims, particularly in the American courts, before handing over their share of the payout fund.

Germany's chief negotiator, Otto Graf Lambsdorf, told the BBC he welcomed the US appeal court decision to throw out a law suit against German industry which had threatened to hold up the payment.

'Unusually important

"It's a very good and very clear and very impressive decision which the Court of Appeals in New York has published yesterday," said Mr Lambsdorf.

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder described the court ruling as an unusually important decision. He said it was now their goal to introduce a bill to the German parliament, the Bundestag, before the summer break indicating that what he termed "legal peace" was at hand.

Germany's chief negotiator Otto Graf Lambsdorf
Otto Graf Lambsdorf said payouts could begin in June
Up to a million victims of Hitler's forced and slave labour programmes are expected to benefit.

Mr Graf Lambsdorf said payments in the next few weeks were still possible.

"If the Bundestag, let's say, decides in June that the legal peace has been achieved then the foundation can pay out the next day," said Mr Lambsdorf.

Survivors' groups say the last excuse for delaying the payments has now disappeared.

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See also:

10 May 01 | Europe
Nazi slave labour payouts cleared
13 Mar 01 | Europe
Firms fulfil Nazi slave pledge
28 Nov 00 | Europe
$700m hole in Nazi slave fund
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