John Topping Wheelock, 56, who was fatally injured Monday when the car he was driving was sideswiped by another vehicle in Bethesda, retired in 1980 after 30 years as a Foreign Service officer who specialized in Arabic and Near Eastern affairs.

Montgomery County police said Mr. Wheelock was eastbound in the 7900 block of Bradley Boulevard when his car was struck by a vehicle driven by Richard Counts, 72, of Bethesda. Mr. Wheelock was taken to Suburban Hospital where he died later that day. Police said Counts was charged with failure to keep to the right of the center of the roadway.

Mr. Wheelock joined the Foreign Service in May 1950. He served in France, Switzerland, New Caledonia and in Washington. In 1958, he was named an economic officer in Aleppo, Syria. In 1962, he became the State Department's principal officer for Aden, Muscat and Oman.

During the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, he was a public information officer at the state Department. He also served as a consular and political officer in Jerusalem.

In 1973, Mr. Wheelock became charge d'affaires and principal officer of the new U.S. embassy in Doha, Qatar. He returned to this country in the mid-1970s, and served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations in New York.

After coming back to Washington he was appointed a member of the board of examiners of the Foreign Service Institute. He also worked on the declassification of documents relating to the Middle East and held posts in the cultural affairs and Near East sections of the State Department before his retirement.

Mr. Wheelock was a native of Peoria, Ill., and a resident of Potomac. He was a 1948 graduate of Princeton University. He served with the Navy during World War II.

He was a member of the Congressional Country Club and the Foreign Service Association.

Survivors include his wife, the former Anne Hendy-Pooley, and three sons, John, Robert and Christopher, all of Potomac.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Mental Health Association of Montgomery County, or to the National Wildlife Federation.