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Robert Strauss, Texas Democrat, Named New U.S. Ambassador to USSR

Robert Strauss, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and briefly President Jimmy Carter’s special envoy to the Middle East, was nominated Tuesday by President Bush to be the next U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Bush, in making the surprise announcement of the appointment of the 72-year-old Washington and Dallas lawyer, said Strauss had taken on "difficult and delicate assignments in the past for presidents of both parties."

The president praised Strauss as the right man for the job, at a time when the United States has a role in helping the Soviet Union foster democratic reforms and economic change.

In the brief White House Rose Garden announcement, Bush said no one is more qualified or more talented than Strauss in being able to guarantee that the United States and the Soviet Union will not be "two big ships" that "pass in the night for lack of understanding."

It is Strauss’ ability for conciliation and bringing people together that may have prompted Bush to call on his fellow Texan to replace the current ambassador, Jack Matlock.

Strauss, a native Texan who is Jewish, had been Carter’s special U.S. trade representative since 1977 when the president chose him in April 1979 to be special Middle East envoy. His job was to bring about an agreement on autonomy for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under the terms of the Camp David Accords.

Strauss served as special envoy only until November 1979, when he became campaign manager for Carter’s unsuccessful bid for re-election. But during his short stint, Strauss identified the various problems that had to be solved to bring about autonomy.

His successor, Sol Linowitz, used Strauss’ approach to bring agreements on various issues. The autonomy discussions were abandoned by the incoming Reagan administration.

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