Elie Wiesel Returns Award Also Given to 'anti-Semites'

BUCHAREST, Romania - Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel has returned an honor he received in 2002 from Romania's president after the same award was presented to two nationalist politicians, according to reports Thursday.

Wiesel sent a letter to president Ion Iliescu saying he had read with "disappointment and sadness" that Iliescu had decided to honor Corneliu Vadim Tudor, head of the Greater Romania Party, and another party member "who are known anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers," the Adevarul newspaper reported.

Tudor and Gheorghe Buzatu received this week Romania's highest honor, the Star of Romania, from Iliescu who steps down next week.

There was no immediate response from Iliescu's office to Wiesel's letter.

Iliescu had won praise recently for asking a panel of experts from Romania, the United States, Israel, France and Germany to investigate the Holocaust. The panel concluded that Romanian authorities were responsible for the deaths of 280,000 to 380,000 Jews and more than 11,000 Gypsies.

Another 132,000 Romanian Jews were killed by pro-Nazi Hungarian authorities who controlled parts of northern Romania during the war.

Iliescu said in November he would help educate the Romanian public about the report's findings.

October 9 has been designated as a national memorial day for the Holocaust, and official ceremonies for victims were held last month marking the day.

Romania was home to 760,000 Jews before 1940, and some 6,000 Jews currently live in Romania now.