WASHINGTON — President Reagan, stung by criticism over the Iran- contra scandal, told his national security advisers today that the rule of law must be respected and that competing views must be fully aired in planning and implementing foreign policy.
Reagan laid down the law in a meeting with about 50 members of the newly overhauled National Security Council staff in the wake of the release of the Tower Commission report last Thursday.
The commission concluded that the arms-to-Iran initiative did not get a serious review in the White House, that it was handled in an unprofessional way and that legal considerations were not pressed. It said Reagan did not exercise control over his national security advisers, was not aware of the way the Iran policy was being implemented and did not recognize its full consequences.
Addressing the NSC staff assembled in recent weeks by Frank C. Carlucci, his new national security adviser, Reagan said "sound management of the NSC process ultimately depends upon the skills and integrity of each of you here."
Wants 'Range of Options'
Reagan directed that "views must be fully aired. Agency participation should not be short cut. I want the range of options developed for my consideration. Legal issues must be addressed head-on, and the rule of law respected. And of course, recommendations and decisions must be properly documented."
The press was not allowed to cover Reagan's remarks, but they were quoted by presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.
He said no one should infer from Reagan's remarks that he had concluded that laws were broken in the Iran-contra arms affair.
Reagan met with the national security team the day before an address to the nation offering his response to the Tower Commission's criticism. Fitzwater said that the speech has gone through numerous drafts and that "there's been a lot of writing going on."
He said the Administration is pressing its search for a new candidate to be chief of the CIA following the withdrawal of Robert M. Gates' nomination. (Story, Page 6.)
'Could Come at Any Time'
"We are searching for a candidate, talking to a lot of people. . . . It could come at any time," Fitzwater said.
In another development, investigators for the Senate committee probing the Iran-contra affair returned from a trip to Honduras and Miami with hundreds of bank records given them by Adolfo Calero, leader of the contra fighting force, a congressional source said today.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the records are the first extensive bank documents obtained so far in the investigation and are expected to show "where money was coming from and where it was going." The papers should indicate some of the sources of the rebels' private funding, the source said.
Congressional sources said a federal grand jury investigating the operation has summoned Calero to testify Wednesday. Calero and other contra leaders have denied getting proceeds from the arms sales.
Senate investigators planned today to take a deposition from former White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan at his temporary office in the Old Executive Office Building next door to the White House.