Reagan Names Rumsfeld As His Special Mideast Representative
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Reagan Names Rumsfeld As His Special Mideast Representative

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President Reagan today named Donald Rumsfeld, a former Congressman who was Secretary of Defense in the Ford Administration, as his special representative in the Middle East. He succeeds Robert McFarlane, who was recently named the President’s National Security Advisor.

The 51-year-old Rumsfeld, who Reagan said would be his “point man” in the Mideast, said he would start immediately in his new position, which he said was for an indefinite period. But he said he would only take a leave of absence from his job as president and chief executive officer of G. D. Searle and Co.

Rumsfeld gave no indication of when he would make his first trip to the Middle East. “I want to spend some time here and get briefed up and visit with people who have been involved previously,” he told reporters.


Rumsfeld, who has no experience in the Mideast, is a friend of Secretary of State George Shultz, who reportedly had urged that he be named to the post.

Reagan said that Richard Fairbanks, who is now in Geneva where the Lebanese reconciliation meeting is going on, will “continue his critical involvement in these issues.” But there was no indication whether Fairbanks will serve as Rumsfeld’s deputy as he did under McFarlane.

There have been reports that Alfred Atherton, who has just ended a term as Ambassador to Egypt, may be named as a deputy representative for the Mideast, but Rumsfeld said that he had not made any plans dealing with personnel.

Rumsfeld refused to comment on any specific issue involved in his new post but he rejected a suggestion that he is taking a “no-win” job. Noting that the Mideast is “an important part of the world to our country,” he said “the fact that the problems there are intractable and difficult and have persisted over long periods doesn’t mean that the United States should ignore them. Rather, I think, that it is worth our best efforts and that is what is intended.”

In announcing the appointment at the White House, Reagan said of Rumsfeld that “I can’t think of a better individual in whom to trust the coordination of our role in the Middle East process and in the Lebanon negotiations.”


The President called his September 1, 1982 peace initiative “a realistic set of principles which we consider the best chance for a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. No one has come up with a better proposal since. I am confident that progress in Lebanon will add momentum to the serious efforts that are going on to establish this broader peace.”

Reagan urged the Lebanese leaders in Geneva to “put the problems of the past aside. They have it within their ability to move toward a national consensus. Progress in their talks could lead to the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon and the establishment of a truly representative government.”

The President rejected a suggestion that the United States should agree to the abandonment of the May 17 Israeli-Lebanese agreement because of serious opposition. When he was asked about “freezing it,” as apparently the participants at Geneva have agreed, Reagan quipped, “In that climate?”

Rumsfeld, who will have the personal rank of Ambassador, was a Republican Congressman from Illinois from 1962 to 1970. He served the Nixon White House first as director of the Office of Economic Opportunity and then as a director of the Economic Stabilization Program from 1969 to 1972. In 1973-74, he was United States Ambassador to NATO and then served as Secretary of Defense from 1975 to 1977 when he became president of Searle.

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