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REAGAN TEXT: 'I Would Not Go Down . . . Same Road Again'

March 20, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Following is the text of the questions and answers on the Iran- contra affair at President Reagan's news conference Thursday night:

Q. Sir, Terry Anderson was taken captive in Lebanon two years and four days ago, and today there are eight Americans held hostage there. How has the Iran-contra affair complicated your efforts to win the release of the hostages?

A. Well, that's rather hard to tell right now.

Indeed, the affair did get some hostages released, and if it hadn't leaked, I don't know whether the word of what we were doing there--I don't know whether we would have gotten more out.

As the day that the information leaked and everything went public, it was my understanding that there were--the other two were due out in the next few days.

But we're going to continue to explore, as we always have, every opportunity to try and get them out.

I happen to believe that when an American citizen anyplace in the world is unjustly denied their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, it is the responsibility of this government to restore those rights.

Q. Sir, if I may, former President Carter will be in Syria this weekend. Is he carrying a message from you about the hostages?

A. No.

Q. Is he making any effort in that regard as far as you know?

A. I don't know.

I wouldn't be surprised if he--if he was, but--and I'd be grateful if he did.

Q. Mr. President, there have been reports that you were told, directly or indirectly, at least twice that the contras were benefiting from the Iran arms sale. Is that true or were you deceived and lied to by (Vice) Adm. (John M.) Poindexter and (Lt.) Col. (Oliver L.) North? And I'd like to follow up.

A. Helen, let me just say, no, that is not true at all.

When I went on the air right after the news broke and told what we had been doing and how we--what our policy was in getting into this affair, I did not know at that time that there was any money involved.

I only knew that we had received our $12 million for the weapons which we had agreed to sell.

Then, a little later, when the attorney general told me that he had come upon something that indicated that there was something to do with money in Swiss bank accounts--and I couldn't imagine what it could be because, as I say, we got our money--but I said that I thought we ought to go public with that again so that you had all the information that we had and not wait and have someone uncover this and think we were trying to cover up or something.

So that was late on Monday afternoon.

Tuesday morning, the first thing, we went before the joint leadership of the Congress and told them what we'd learned, that all we'd learned was that there was evidently some money having to do with this whole arrangement over there and involving some Swiss bank accounts.

And then I came into the press room to all of you and told you.

Q. Mr. President, is it possible that two military officers who are trained to obey orders grabbed power, made major foreign policy moves, didn't tell you when you were briefed every day on intelligence? Or did they think they were doing your bidding?

A. Helen, I don't know.

I only know that that's why I have said repeatedly that I want to find out, I want to get to the bottom of this and find out all that has happened.

And so far, I've told you all that I know and, you know, the truth of the matter is, for quite some long time, all that you knew was what I'd told you.

Q. Sir, Robert McFarlane, who was then your national security adviser, says that in August of 1985, he called you on the telephone and asked if you wanted to give the green light to Israel to send arms to Iran and have them replenished from U.S. stocks, and that you said you did. And he said that he reminded you in that conversation that your secretaries of state and defense were against it and you said you understood that, but you explained to him the reasons why you wanted to authorize it. Do you have no memory of that, whatsoever?

A. Sam, all I know is that I was never--my memory didn't fail me on the fact that I had agreed to this thing.

The only thing I could not recall was at what point was I asked.

And as a result of that and not being able to recall when I gave this permission, we now have quite a system installed of people taking notes in all our meetings and all our doings.

Q. If you don't recall, when Benjamin Weir--Rev. Weir was released in mid-September of that year, why did you think they had released him if you couldn't recall that you had authorized Israel to do that?

A. No. As I say, I'm aware--I can't remember just when, in all the calls and meetings and so forth, this was presented and when I gave the go ahead.

But this was a thing in which the Israelis were willing to sell weaponry--mainly TOW missiles--and wanted to know if they did, if we would agree to sell them replacements when and if they needed it.

Q. --the day before he was released, sir?

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