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Hume Horan, was US diplomat in Middle East; 69

WASHINGTON -- Hume A. Horan, a US diplomat in the Middle East through some of the region's most turbulent times, died Thursday in a Virginia hospital of complications from prostate cancer, his wife, Lori Shoemaker, said yesterday. He was 69.

Mr. Horan's last diplomatic posting in the region, as ambassador to Saudi Arabia, ended after six months when King Fahd told him to leave. The State Department attributed the abrupt departure to a personality conflict.

Early in his career, Mr. Horan held several posts: as a desk officer in 1969 when a 27-year-old Libyan Army officer, Moammar Khadafy, led a coup that ended the rule of King Idris and installed Khadafy as ruler; as a political officer in 1970 in Amman, Jordan, when Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization began and lost a bloody rebellion against King Hussein; and as deputy chief of mission in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. He held that job in 1973, when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries ordered an oil boycott after that year's Arab-Israeli war, quadrupling the price of gasoline. Mr. Horan was in Saudi Arabia in 1975 when King Feisal was assassinated by his nephew, a Muslim extremist.

Mr. Horan's last Middle East assignment was his second in Saudi Arabia. His problems began with King Fahd after the United States learned in 1988 that the Saudis had bought from China medium-range missiles that could reach Israel.

In an obituary Mr. Horan wrote for himself, he said the State Department told him to protest strongly to Fahd that the missiles were unacceptable; he received word later that ''a message different in tone and substance" had been given to the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

''Having incurred the King's anger, Horan was recalled to Washington," he wrote.

The State Department denied media reports then that the rift was over the missile issue. An official contended the ambassador and Fahd had a personality conflict.

Before that assignment, Mr. Horan had been the ambassador in Arab-ruled Sudan, where his embassy brokered the agreement with then-President Jaafar Numeiri to facilitate Israel's 1984 airlift that evacuated up to 15,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel through Sudan.

His first assignment for the Foreign Service was in Baghdad. He retired in 1998, but returned to Iraq for six months last year to be senior counselor to the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority, dealing mainly with religious and tribal affairs.

He also served as ambassador to Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Ivory Coast.

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