WASHINGTON (Dec. 5)
Secretary of State George Shultz has denied any knowledge of a secret agreement the United States and Israel allegedly made to conduct counterterrorist operations using funds from the sale of arms to Iran in 1985 and 1986.
But Shultz, in an appearance Sunday on ABC-TV’s “This Week With David Brinkley” program, left open the possibility that the agreement could have been concluded without his knowledge.
“Apparently a lot of things happened in the course of the Iran-Contra business that the secretary of state didn’t know about,” he said. Shultz, who had opposed the sale of arms to Iran, was excluded by the White House from major decisions in the affair.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Sunday he knew of no such agreement.
The existence of the agreement was reported Sunday by The Washington Post. The paper based its story on interviews with Amiram Nir, a counterterrorism adviser to Peres who was killed last Wednesday in an airline crash near Mexico City, where he was traveling under an assumed name.
At the State Department Monday, spokesman Charles Redman said that after further checking, the department found that “no such agreement as discussed in that Post story exists.”
He said the United States shares information on terrorism with Israel and other countries. “Mr. Nir in his capacity in the Israeli government did propose a more formal agreement or memorandum of agreement in the time period of September and October 1985,” Redman said.
“But that proposal was immediately rejected by the United States government,” Redman said. “So that may explain where some of this story came from.”
REVEALED LAST JUNE IN LONDON
The Post said that Nir described the secret agreement during 13 hours of interviews in London on June 25 and 26. Nir said that he and Lt. Col. Oliver North, the former National Security Council aide, supervised the operation.
The Post agreed at the time not to reveal Nir’s remarks until he decided to go public with the information. But the paper decided to publish the report after it learned of Nir’s death.
North actually told the congressional committees investigating the Iran-Contra affair in 1987 of the agreement, although he said none of the counterterrorism operations that he and Nir proposed had been carried out.
But Nir told the Post that the joint operations were approved by President Reagan and Peres, who was prime minister at the time.
The Israeli government barred Nir and other Israelis from testifying before the congressional investigating committee, but supplied it with written answers to questions.
Nir, a former military reporter for Israel Television, was appointed a counterterrorism adviser by Peres. He worked with North on the sale of arms to Iran as the principle middleman between the United States and Iran.
Nir was kept on by Yitzhak Shamir when he became prime minister, but after his role in the Iran arms sale was revealed, he was largely ignored and eventually left for private business.