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Diary Shows Fahd Raised Contra Aid Issue, Reagan Says

May 14, 1987|JAMES GERSTENZANG | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — President Reagan said Wednesday that his private diary shows he discussed with King Fahd a contribution by Saudi Arabia to the Nicaraguan rebels, but he asserted that it was the king who raised the subject at the end of a White House meeting and that "there was no solicitation that I know of or anything of the kind."

In testimony Monday before the congressional committees investigating the Iran- contra affair, former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane had said that Reagan apparently talked about the rebels' desperate need for money when he met with the Saudi king in February, 1985. Shortly after that, McFarlane said, he learned that the Saudis had doubled their contribution to the contras to $2 million a month.

The meeting came at a time when both direct and indirect U.S. government aid to the contras was banned by Congress.

Reagan, responding to reporters' questions while posing for photographers with Guatemalan President Vinicio Cerezo Arevalo, said:

"My diary shows that I never brought it up and it shows that the king, before he left, told me that he was doing that, and that he was going to increase the aid."

When asked how he responded, Reagan said: "Oh, I think I expressed pleasure that he was doing that."

Private contributions to the rebels have been a key focus of the congressional hearings in their second week, as committee members have tried to determine the extent of the President's possible involvement in helping to finance the contras' cause during the period of the aid ban.

Shed Light on Diary

His comments, and those of McFarlane over the last several days, have also shed light on the President's private, handwritten diary. Congressional investigators have been given limited access to the material in their effort to probe Reagan's thoughts and actions during the time that the Iran arms sale and secret operations to aid the contras were under way.

The subject of the $32-million Saudi contribution to the anti-Sandinista rebels is a diplomatically sensitive subject, particularly in light of the Saudis' insistence that aid to the contras was not discussed during the 1985 visit.

To avoid causing embarrassment to an important ally, committee members and witnesses have referred to the Middle Eastern nation only as "Country 2" in the testimony this week.

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate investigating panel, noted that the nation "doesn't consider Central America as being essential (and) has no diplomatic relations with any country in Central America."

Discusses Motivation

Then, in questioning McFarlane, he delved into the motivation of Saudi Arabia in helping the contras:

Inouye: "It is true that the well-being of Country 2 is very much dependent upon good relations with the United States."

McFarlane: "Yes, sir."

Inouye: "They received much of their arms, they purchased much of their arms, sophisticated weaponry, from the United States."

McFarlane: "Yes, sir."

Inouye: "And we happen to be, I think, their best customer for their products."

McFarlane: "Yes, sir."

He added later: "Surely we were vulnerable to the possibility that one day a quid pro quo would be asked, or urged. But, to my knowledge, none occurred."

Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Me.) said he was troubled by "the definition of solicitation" of funds.

Although he has talked of Reagan's meeting with Fahd, McFarlane on Wednesday refused to term any discussion of the contras' needs a solicitation of aid.

"It seems to me that we have been engaged in this exercise of trying to define how many foreign leaders can be made to dance on the head of the President's contra program without calling it a solicitation," he said.

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