Hodding Carter III, assistant secretary of State and an increasingly visible spokesman for American foreign policy during the Iran crisis, has decided he needs an agent.

It was announced yesterday that Carter has signed with the William Morris Agency. "I'm interested in what I do when I leave here," Carter said, "which is no time in the near future."

He pointed out that he had been in journalism 18 years before coming to the State Department, most recently as editor and publisher of the Greenville, Miss., Delta Democrat-Times, which was owned by his family. The paper was sold recently, and it is because "I am in no position to worry about [my future plans] that I am taking this step," he said.

Norman Brokaw, vice president of William Morris, characterized Carter, 44, as the biggest name currently on the Washington scene. "He's cool and calm," said Brokaw, adding, "His handling of the Iranian crisis has done so much to stabilize things on sensitive issues."

Carter said any projects William Morris handles for him in TV or print journalism would not be limited to his experience at the "eye of the storm." He said he was more interested in writing about the early '60s and '70s -- "that whole period in which I was active as a journalist."