WASHINGTON (Dec. 1)
President Reagan, in an interview published in the current issue of Time magazine, seems to blame Israel for providing funds for the Contras from the money received in the secret arms sales to Iran.
But White House spokesman Larry Speakes said that this is not what Reagan meant since he knows nothing about the secret bank account set up for the Contras in Switzerland.
Reagan’s interview with Time was conducted on November 26 two days after Attorney General Edwin Meese told him he had discovered the secret fund and the day after Meese made the discovery public.
“Another country was facilitating those sales of weapons systems,” Reagan told Time. “They then were overcharging and were apparently putting the money into bank accounts of the leaders of the Contras. It wasn’t us funneling money to them. This was another country.”
ISRAEL NOT MENTIONED BY NAME
Reagan did not mention Israel by name, a practice he has followed since his Administration’s secret negotiations with Iran became public. But Meese, in his White House press conference November 25, was the first Administration official to admit publicly that Israel had been the go-between for all the U.S. arms sales to Iran.
Speakes said Monday that Reagan, in his remarks to the news weekly, was referring to the sale of arms by Israel to Iran before the involvement of the U.S.
Meese, in his briefing to the press, was clear that the $10-$30 million Iran paid for arms above the $12 million cost of the arms to the U.S. was placed in the secret accounts at the direction of Marine Corps Lt. Col. Oliver North, a staff member of the National Security Council, who was fired for this reason.
Vice Admiral John Poindexter, who Meese said knew something was occurring but “did not look into it further,” was allowed to resign as the President’s National Security Advisor. Meese also said that former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, who participated with North in the secret Iranian negotiations learned of the secret accounts last spring.
Meese said the money went from representatives of Iran to representatives of Israel and then to Switzerland. The money owed the U.S. was transferred to the CIA which repaid the Department of Defense.
It was never made clear who had actually deposited the excess funds in the Contra accounts. Israeli officials have defended helping the U.S. in the arms sales to Iran but have vehemently denied any knowledge or connection with the secret Contra accounts.
This was stressed by MK Abba Eban, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, in an appearance on ABC-TV’s “This Week with David Brinkley” Sunday. “You cannot involve Israel in things which lie outside its action, and beyond its experience and beyond its jurisdiction,” Eban said.
Meanwhile, Reagan told Time he does not “feel betrayed” by North, whom he called “a national hero.” He added, “My only criticism is that I wasn’t told everything.”
REAGAN PROMISES FULL AIRING OF THE FACTS
The President promised a “full and complete airing of the facts” on Monday as he met with the three-member special review panel that will study the role of the National Security Council and especially whether it should be engaged in operational diplomatic, security and military actions.
The board is headed by former Sen. John Tower (R. Tex). The others members are former Secretary of State Edwin Muskie, a former Democratic Senator from Maine, and Gen Brent Scowcroft, President Ford’s National Security Advisor.