Ex-Md. education leader mentioned for State Dept.

January 06, 1993|By Mark Matthews | Mark Matthews,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Richard Schifter, a former president of th Maryland State Board of Education, is being mentioned for a high-level State Department job in the incoming Clinton administration.

The post most frequently cited would be a new position of undersecretary in charge of promoting democracy abroad. One proposal would give this position overall charge of human rights and refugee affairs and a coordinating role in the work of the Agency for International Development and the U.S. Information Agency. New legislation probably would be required.

Mr. Schifter, who served as head of the Maryland school board from 1975 to 1979, declined comment.

A 69-year-old lawyer and neo-conservative Democrat who lives in Bethesda, he was named assistant secretary for human rights by President Reagan and continued in that job under the Bush administration until he resigned last April.

Internally, he opposed early Bush administration efforts to strengthen ties with the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein. On China, however, he backed maintaining favorable trade terms, believing improved trade would spur political reform.

After deciding to support Mr. Clinton's presidential bid, Mr. Schifter joined his circle of foreign policy advisers, consulting on major speeches and statements.

Mr. Clinton has pledged to elevate the importance of human rights in conducting foreign affairs, arguing that any successful policy must be grounded in U.S. values.

The new undersecretary's position would fulfill a Clinton campaign commitment to link U.S. assistance programs in the developing world with promotion of democracy. U.S. human rights officials currently have no clout on economic policy.

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