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Casey Reportedly Sought Saudi Aid for Contras in '84

October 22, 1986|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A San Francisco newspaper reported Tuesday that CIA Director William J. Casey asked Saudi Arabia's King Fahd in 1984 to give military aid to rebels in Nicaragua and Angola, but both the CIA and the Saudi Embassy denied the report.

The San Francisco Examiner, in a dispatch from Washington, quoted an unnamed American businessman as saying that he had been told of the alleged Casey request by Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, the Saudi ambassador in Washington.

The businessman said Bandar had asked him to help a retired U.S. Air Force general, Richard V. Secord, in setting up a channel for Saudi aid to the rebels, known as contras , who are fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, the Examiner reported.

The CIA issued an immediate denial. Bandar, in a written statement, did not specifically deny meeting with the unnamed businessman but said, "Saudi Arabia is not and has not been involved, either directly or indirectly, in any military or other support activity of any kind for . . . groups concerned with Nicaragua."

The Times and other newspapers have reported that Secord played a major role in setting up the contras' secret air supply network after Congress cut off U.S. government aid to the rebels in 1984. Secord, who retired as the Pentagon's chief Middle East arms salesman in 1983 after negotiating a sale of AWACS radar surveillance airplanes to Saudi Arabia, obtained funding for the contras' operation from Saudi private citizens, according to rebel sources.

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