WASHINGTON — In yet another bizarre twist to the Iran- contra scandal, Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Me.) revealed Friday that the Nicaraguan rebels contributed money to White House aide Oliver L. North to help ransom American hostages held in Lebanon.
"I think the evidence will indicate that . . . (contra leader Adolfo) Calero was requested to produce cash and travelers checks to be used for this particular purpose," said Cohen, a member of the Senate select committee investigating the scandal. "So we had, in effect, a reverse contra program being carried out to pay ransom."
Calero confirmed Cohen's account and said the contribution in the late spring of 1985 was "more than $50,000 but less than $100,000."
"We made the contribution because it was a worthy cause," the contra leader said in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Miami. "We gave it of our own free will. There was no pressure from Col. North at all."
Calero said the money came from "private contributions." At the time, other sources said, the contras had received some $32 million in secret contributions from Saudi Arabia.