WASHINGTON (Oct. 16)
President Reagan’s surprise appointment of his National Security Advisor William Clark as Secretary of the Interior has focused attention on who will be named to replace Clark.
The expected replacement is Robert McFarlane, the senior deputy National Security Advisor who has been Reagan’s special envoy to the Mideast for the past three months. However, there is some speculation that the post may be given to Jeane Kirkpatrick, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes said last Friday that no decision had yet been made.
McFarlane met with the President for a half hour Friday morning, but this was a scheduled meeting to discuss the situation in the Mideast, particularly Lebanon. McFarlane’s return from Beirut last week signals the start of high level review of U.S. Mideast policy.
Clark’s appointment to replace the controversial James Watt came last Friday. Earlier in the week there had been reports of strong disagreements between Clark and Secretary of State George Shultz over McFarlane’s handling of the negotiations in Lebanon. The State Department denied that Shultz had made any comment about Clark going to Rome October 1 to meet with McFarlane.
Shultz reportedly had no inkling of the impending Clark appointment when he had lunch with Clark and McFarlane at the State Department Thursday. Clark is one of Reagan’s closest advisors and had been named to the National Security Council post and before that Deputy Secretary of State under Alexander Haig, despite his lack of knowledge about foreign affairs.
U.S. STRESSES ITS LEBANON POLICY REMAINS UNCHANGED
Meanwhile, the Administration was at pains Friday to stress that there was no change in its policy in Lebanon despite the Clark reassignment and the death of a U.S. marine who was killed by snipers Friday at Beirut International Airport.
“We are deeply concerned that our marines continue to come under fire and are saddened by the death today of another marine,” Reagan was quoted as saying. Friday’s casualty was the fifth marine killed in Lebanon.
However, U.S. officials reportedly said that the marine who died and another one who was injured were the result of a direct attack on the U.S. force rather than being caught in the cross-fire between various Lebanese groups as happened in the past.
Speakes, however, stressed that the “fact that the cease-fire is holding by and large and the national reconciliation project is moving forward indicates” that the multinational force with the marine contingent in part “exerts a positive force in moving Lebanon towards stability, security and eventual peace.”
Reagan, joined by Clark, Shultz and McFarlane met Friday morning with Wadi Hadad, Lebanese President Amin Gemayel’s National Security Advisor. Hadad told reporters that he was sorry about the death of the marine but said this was the price the U.S. had to pay to defend democratic interests.
Hadad said he urged the Americans to “neutralize” the effect the occupying forces are having on Lebanese citizens — an apparent reference to Syria — making national reconciliation difficult. Speaks refused to comment on the conversation with Hadad. He said that the U.S. is not directly involved in negotiations for national reconciliation but it has tried to be “helpful” in achieving “the instrument” to bring about national reconciliation.