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Khashoggi Says He Sent Bush Check for Contras : Spokesman Flatly Denies Vice President Received $1,000 Donation From Saudi Financier or Aide

March 20, 1987|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Saudi financier Adnan Khashoggi said in an interview published Thursday that he had sent Vice President George Bush a $1,000 contribution for Nicaraguan contras , but a spokesman for Bush flatly denied it.

Khashoggi, in an interview with the Washington Times, said he directed an assistant to send Bush a check for $1,000 after the vice president invited him to a fund-raising lunch during a period when Congress prohibited U.S. government aid to the rebels.

"Bush was trying to raise money right and left for the Nicaraguan resistance in 1985," Khashoggi said. "My No. 2, Bob Shaheen, called me and said the vice president had asked me to lunch. I asked Bob what was the occasion, and he said Mr. Bush was raising funds for Nicaragua. So I told Bob: 'Send him $1,000.' And I received a very nice letter from the vice president thanking me for my contribution."

'False and Misleading'

Bush spokesman Larry Thomas called the story "false and misleading."

"The vice president never has accepted money from Mr. Khashoggi or Mr. Shaheen, nor does he have any knowledge of Mr. Khashoggi's financial support of the contras," Thomas said.

A separate statement issued by Bush's office said that he had actively encouraged private donors to help the Nicaraguan rebels. But it added: "We have no recollection or record of any part by the vice president in the direct solicitation of funds for the contras."

"He told people that he supported the contras and hoped that they would, too," an aide said. "But he himself has never directly solicited private or corporate aid."

Bush has also acknowledged that his office worked closely with Felix Rodriguez, a former CIA operative who helped run the contras' secret weapons airlift from El Salvador, but the vice president has insisted that he never knew Rodriguez was flying guns for the rebels.

Effort Called 'Careless'

Khashoggi, who helped finance the secret U.S. arms sales to Iran, said in the interview that Bush's alleged fund-raising effort was "very careless."

He said Bush sent him a thank-you note that did not mention the amount of his contribution. "With this kind of letter, I could bring down the government by just asking you what happened to the $100 million I gave you," Khashoggi said. " . . . It's amateur night at the opera."

However, Bush's office released copies of an exchange of letters between Khashoggi and the vice president in 1986, a year after the alleged $1,000 donation, and neither letter mentioned a contribution.

"I am at your service and eager to play any role in order to assist your Administration and preserve democracy and freedom throughout the world," Khashoggi's letter to Bush said.

"President Reagan and I appreciate your support for U.S. aid to the freedom fighters of Nicaragua," said Bush's reply, which appeared to be a standard form letter.

No Record of '85 Contact

Bush's office said it could find no record of any correspondence with Khashoggi or Shaheen in 1985, when Khashoggi said his contribution was made.

Khashoggi and Shaheen did not respond to requests for further comment Thursday.

In the interview, Khashoggi said also that former White House aide Oliver L. North once sent him a message asking whether he could raise $100 million for the contras. He said North's intermediary, Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, told him he could "get a lot of favors from the Administration" if he raised money for the contras.

"Look, Nixon was my best friend in his Administration and he couldn't help me or my business one iota," Khashoggi said he replied, referring to former President Richard M. Nixon. "All these guys can do is offer you an embassy abroad--and since I'm not going to be a U.S. ambassador, forget it."

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