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The Nation

March 19, 2011

Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher dies

(Continued)

His travels became the stuff of diplomatic legend.

In the skies over Africa and approaching his 71st birthday in October 1996, Christopher set a new mark for miles traveled by a secretary of state over four years, the normal length of a presidential term: 704,487.

The crew on his Air Force jet presented him with a congratulatory cake.

Christopher overcame sleep deprivation, difficult negotiations with the likes of the late Syrian President Hafez Assad and nagging ulcers to keep his eye on American interests.

Always crisp, modest and polite, he drove home an agreement in his last year on the job to halt fighting in Lebanon between Israel and extremist Shiite guerrillas.

"We have achieved the goal of our mission, which was to achieve an agreement that will save lives and end the suffering of people on both sides of the Israeli-Lebanese border," Christopher said in Jerusalem, his weeklong mission a success.

Madeleine Albright stepped in for Clinton's second term and Christopher returned to his law firm of O'Melveny & Myers with Clinton's "deep gratitude" for his service and with president's playful description of Christopher as "the only man ever to eat M&Ms on Air Force One with a fork."

Unlike some who held the job, Christopher worked smoothly with the president's other senior advisers.

Although critics complained that the Clinton administration's foreign policy lacked dramatic initiatives, the poised and cautious Christopher indicated he was pleased with the results, especially with what he called the "triple play" of a NAFTA trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, the APEC expansion of U.S. economic ties to Pacific Rim nations, and the GATT accord on international tariffs and trade.

"Taking it overall, we've done very well on the major issues," he said at a news conference in 1993, during which he also cited U.S. support for economic and political reform in Russia and the "partnership for peace" proposal to expand the involvement of former Communist adversaries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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