The World: Diplomat in Stocking Feet

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THE crown of my career" is the way Dutch Foreign Minister Joseph Marie Antoine Hubert Luns describes his new post as NATO's civilian chief. The phrasing is apt. In his 19 years as The Netherlands' ranking diplomat, Luns, 59, has worked as hard for Western European unity and cooperation with the U.S. as any statesman on the Continent.

As NATO's fifth Secretary-General,*Luns takes over at a crucial time, when the alliance is beginning to explore troop reductions with the Warsaw Pact nations. Luns' own predilection is for caution. He does not want NATO to become so mesmerized by hopes of detente that it will lose sight of its primary role as the defender of Western Europe.

Married to a Dutch baroness and the father of two grown children. Luns is a speed reader whose photographic memory enables him to absorb history and Foreign Ministry cables even as he is watching television. A member of the moderate Catholic People's Party, he makes little attempt to disguise his scorn for progressive Catholics within his party, and for leftists of any ilk. While looking at TV, he says, "I get up and leave when some leftist starts saving the whole world." Luns, who has served far longer in office than any other Western Foreign

Minister, has run a one-man show in The Hague, making all major decisions himself and often dismaying his civil servants by failing to consult with them.

Even so, the show has been highly effective. In the 1950s, Luns was instrumental in the success of the economic union of Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg. He helped bring about the Treaty of Rome, which set up the Common Market, and Euratom, the pooling of Western European nuclear research facilities. He was also an outspoken champion of a strong NATO and of British admission into the European Economic Community. On both points he clashed with Charles de Gaulle, but the two men nonetheless developed a deep mutual admiration. Shortly before his death. De Gaulle sent Luns a copy of his memoirs inscribed "In Friendship."

Tall (6 ft. 5½ in.) and impeccably tailored in blue pin-stripe suits, Luns has a wry, offbeat sense of humor. During one of the Common Market's recent ministerial bargaining sessions, he shocked his colleagues by doffing his shoes and slipping on bright red knit socks. "Makes me shorter and I can think better," he explained. At last week's Lisbon meeting, he slipped off his shoes, revealing bright green socks. Occasionally he sports suspenders decorated with small gold-plated elephants.

Luns appears to be in perfect physical condition, but he suffers from severe backaches, which he treats by strapping on a large brace that forces him to stand erect. He swims in the summer, usually from his houseboat tied up off the village of Rijpweterinj. He regularly walks nearly a mile from his official residence to the Foreign Ministry in The Hague. He drinks very little ("It gives me a war in my stomach") and never anything stronger than wine. He leaves all dinners punctually at 10:30 unless "I want to show how much I enjoyed it." In that case, he stays until 10:35.

*The others: Britain's Lord Ismay (1952-57), Belgium's Paul-Henri Spaak (1957-61), The Netherlands' Dirk Stikker (1961-64), Italy's ManlioBrosio (1964-71).