`Nazi' gold release hope

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The Independent Online
Gold bullion and coins stolen by the Nazis, which could be worth as much as pounds 35m, should be handed over to the victims of the Holocaust, the Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind, is urging Washington and Paris.

The United States and France are partners with the United Kingdom on a tripartite commission set up 50 years ago to carve up the gold stolen by the Germans from individuals and countries during the Second World War.

Under the terms of the 1946 Paris Agreement on Reparation, the commission was allowed to receive only from governments - and to allocate the gold to claimant countries.

The countries waiting for their share are Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, Italy Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Yugoslavia.

But in the wake of the row over Swiss holdings of Nazi gold, Mr Rifkind was one those who pressed the Swiss government to consider restitution to Jewish organisations on behalf of victims of the Holocaust.

That initiative led to demands that Mr Rifkind should apply the same rule to the remaining gold held by the Tripartite Commission. The deliberations of the commission have always been kept secret.

But in a written Commons reply last night, Labour MP Jeff Rooker was told that the Government had asked the commission to consider the "distribution to individuals" of the remaining coins and bullion.

Foreign Office Minister David Davis told Mr Rooker: "It is now being considered by the member governments".

Mr Rooker said: "This means there is a good chance the residue of gold could be distributed now to the individuals or organisations representing the victims Jewish and others of the Holocaust."