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Panels to Hear More Testimony From North Aide

May 19, 1987|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The congressional hearings on the Iran- contra affair resume today, as the House and Senate committees investigating the scandal hear more testimony from Robert W. Owen, who acted as a courier for fired White House aide Oliver L. North.

In his first day of testimony last Thursday, Owen described North's secret system for doling out payments to the Nicaraguan rebels at a time when Congress had banned official U.S. aid to the insurgents.

Contra leader Adolfo Calero is scheduled to go before the panel when the lawmakers have finished their questioning of Owen, possibly today. According to Owen's testimony, Calero had supplied North with thousands of dollars in traveler's checks, which North kept in his safe and dispensed to contra leaders.

Key Role Cited

Calero, who heads the largest and most conservative contra faction, has played a major role in raising money for the rebels and had control of large sums received secretly from Saudi Arabia in 1985. He has denied knowledge of funds being diverted from U.S. arms sales to Iran and turned over financial records and other documents to federal investigators in March.

Calero, a former manager of the Nicaraguan Coca-Cola plant, joined the largest contra military group in 1983.

Since then, he has become the most controversial of the top contra leaders. Several months ago, infighting among contra factions grew so severe that more moderate leaders, Arturo Cruz and Alfonso Robelo, threatened to resign from the contras' umbrella alliance unless Calero's power was checked. However, Cruz and Robelo withdrew their threats and pledged to work for internal reforms instead.

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