President Reagan summoned Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and national security adviser Richard V. Allen to the Oval Office yesterday in his most direct personal effort to end the feuding between Haig and senior White House advisers.
The three men spent an hour discussing the bickering and tensions that hit a new level earlier this week when Haig publicly declared that an unnamed White House adviser was running a "guerrilla campaign" to undermine him. No one else was present, White House communications director David Gergen said.
Although Allen was the only White House adviser called to the Oval Office meeting, the president does not mean to pinpoint him as the man running a campaign against Haig, Gergen said. No one has been identified as running such a campaign, he added.
Reagan made clear his displeasure over the discord, which he has said is destructive to his foreign policy, but he also gave Haig and Allen new words of support. "The president also reaffirmed his strong confidence in them and in his entire foreign policy team," according to a White House-approved account of the meeting made public by Gergen.
The account described the session as "a friendly conversation about foreign policy operations." There was no indication that Reagan had threatened any action against either man if the feuding continues.
"The president told them that he wanted to ensure that the matter of the past two days is closed. He also discussed with them ways to make the foreign policy apparatus of the government work better and ways to stop any internal criticisms," according to the official account.
"The meeting was called at the president's initiative and lasted approximately one hour. At the conclusion of the meeting, both the secretary and the national security adviser agreed that it was important to the country and the president that all members of his foreign policy team cooperate and work closely together," the account continued.
Reagan's decision to confront Haig and Allen apparently reflected his dissatisfaction with his earlier efforts to end the criticisms back and forth between Haig and White house staff members.
The president directed deputy press secretary Larry Speakes Wednesday to tell reporters: "The White House considers the matter closed."
Reagan gave orders Wednesday that he wanted the infighting to end, but he decided to reopen the matter at least long enough to hold yesterday's Oval Office meeting. By calling the meeting, he took one of the actions that several advisers had recommended when the latest round of controversy erupted Tuesday. Initially, however, senior White House officials said it simply was not the president's style to sit down with feuding officials and personally lay down the law.
Gergen said Allen was invited to the meeting because Reagan wanted to meet with two of the "key players" on his foreign policy team.
Several White House staff members have been critical of Haig among themselves and to reporters since shortly after Reagan took office Jan. 20. In return, State Department officials have sniped at the White House handling of some foreign policy questions.
Gergen said he knew of no one else who had been cautioned by the president except "possibly" the Big Three: counselor Edwin Meese III, chief of staff James A. Baker III and deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver. Reagan met with them immediately after his hour with Haig and Allen, Gergen said.
He said the president is not planning changes of foreign policy personnel or operating methods.
Anyone seeking clues to how secure Haig and Allen may feel in their jobs could conclude that Allen had picked up presidential support. Reagan has said several times recently that Haig is the best secretary of state the nation has had in a long time, but last week he said of Allen only that he "is doing his job and we're all getting along fine . . . . "
Yesterday the president expressed "strong confidence" in both.graphics1: Richard V. Allen, Reagan's national security adviser, talking with press yesterday.(AP)