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Mideast Diplomat Morris Draper, 77

By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 26, 2005; Page B06

Morris Draper, 77, who served as President Ronald Reagan's special Middle East envoy during the Lebanon crisis, died April 15 at the Washington Home hospice center. He had lung cancer.

Mr. Draper, a career diplomat for 35 years, worked closely with U.S. special emissary Philip C. Habib to negotiate the pullback of Israeli, Syrian and Palestinian military forces from Lebanon and the creation of security arrangements near Israel's northern border.

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The diplomatic assignment, from 1981 to 1983, was described in The Washington Post as "a metaphor for frustration."

Accorded the rank of ambassador by Reagan, Mr. Draper handled many of the day-to-day details of shuttle diplomacy during the assignment in the Middle East. He also participated in talks that led to the decision of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat to move to Tunisia during that period.

"Habib and Draper, in their own eyes, probably had their greatest accomplishment in an 11-month cease-fire, from July, 1981, to June, 1982, between two bitter enemies -- Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization -- who would not officially recognize each other's existence," The Post reported in 1983, when Mr. Draper and Habib ended their Middle East assignment.

Their negotiations also resulted in a fragile May 17, 1983, agreement between Israel and Lebanon to begin the withdrawal of foreign forces from Beirut. It suffered, however, from Syria's unwillingness to withdraw.

At a ceremony in Khalde, a seaside town near Beirut, Mr. Draper signed the agreement and noted that it was a first step, with obstacles ahead, for Lebanon and Israel, the New York Times reported.

"Both countries have been victimized. Their peoples over the years have made enormous sacrifices, and not only in blood and property," Mr. Draper said. "There is no one here among either the Lebanese or the Israeli delegations who has not somehow been touched by past tragedies."

A native of Berkeley, Calif., Mr. Draper graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California and served in the Army for two years. After joining the Foreign Service, he pursued Middle East graduate studies in Beirut and learned to speak Arabic and French, as well as some Spanish, Turkish and Hebrew.

In the late 1970s, he participated in the Camp David peace accords and in the Israel-Egypt peace treaty negotiations that followed.

He served as consul general in Jerusalem and deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. He also held diplomatic posts in Jordan, Turkey, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Singapore.

In his last State Department assignment, he spoke on college campuses in all 50 states to urge students to consider the diplomatic service. He retired in 1990.

Mr. Draper received numerous honors, including the President's Distinguished Service Award. He also was given an Award for Valor for his service in Amman, Jordan; a special Foreign Service award for high achievement; the Wilbur J. Carr Award for distinguished service from the State Department; and the Order of the Cedar from the Lebanese government.

Mr. Draper, a longtime Washington area resident, had lived in Alexandria and the District when he was not on foreign assignment.

His marriage to Nancy Moyer Draper ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife, Roberta Hornig Draper of Washington; three children from his first marriage, Courtney Draper Geer of Richmond, Blair A. Draper of Denver and Jonathan M. Draper of Cleveland, Tenn.; four grandchildren; and a brother.

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