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Perot Says He Is Studying MIA Issue for Reagan

November 14, 1986|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | Times Staff Writer

HOUSTON — Billionaire H. Ross Perot said Thursday that President Reagan has asked him to investigate whether American servicemen are still being held in Southeast Asia and, if they are, to devise a plan to bring them home.

But Perot, who in 1969 tried unsuccessfully to deliver 26 tons of food and Christmas packages to American prisoners in North Vietnam, played down his role in a telephone interview, saying that he was only in the research stages of his investigation and that he did not know where it would lead.

"All I'm doing is studying and reading," he said. "There's nothing to talk about."

Perot, who built his own computer empire and is now the largest shareholder of General Motors, confirmed that President Reagan and Vice President George Bush had approached him on the matter of the missing prisoners and that he had been studying documents in Washington for about two weeks. But he denied reports that he had brought together an informal group of experts to help him in the investigation.

"I'm by myself," Perot said.

Further, he would not comment on such questions as whether he was pondering his own rescue effort or would simply report his findings to the President.

"I'm just chipping away," he said.

The billionaire businessman was a staunch defender of the American presence in Vietnam, and in 1973, when anti-war fervor was at its highest, he underwrote a parade for returning prisoners of war.

Six years later, he organized a commando unit that rescued two of his employees from a Tehran prison at the outset of the Iranian revolution. He has often said he believes that there may still be American prisoners in Southeast Asia.

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