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Met Reagan, Didn't Talk Deals: Calero : Didn't Discuss North With Reagan: Calero

May 20, 1987|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Nicaraguan rebel leader Adolfo Calero testified today that he met three or four times with President Reagan during a two-year ban on U.S. military aid to his forces, but that he never mentioned Lt. Col. Oliver L. North's secret efforts on behalf of the contras .

"No, sir, no," Calero replied at the Iran-contra hearings when asked if he and Reagan discussed either North's activities or the contras' efforts to raise funds from foreign sources as a replacement for U.S. aid cut off by Congress.

Calero also said he received no indication that Reagan knew of proceeds from secret U.S. arms sales to Iran being diverted to the rebels. Reagan has denied any knowledge of the diversion.

Helped the Rebels

In other testimony today, Calero said North helped the Nicaraguan rebels obtain more than $33 million in contributions and weapons during a two-year congressional ban on U.S. military aid to the rebels.

In dozens of meetings, "I used to tell Col. North practically everything," Calero said of his close relationship with the Marine lieutenant colonel who was fired as a National Security Council aide last November after disclosure of the Iran-contra connection.

The affable, white-haired Calero, a successful Nicaraguan businessman, told the nationally broadcast House-Senate hearings that without U.S. help it would have been almost impossible for the rebels to have received contributions from foreign countries to make up for the U.S. aid that had been cut off beginning in October, 1984.

Had to 'Wink an Eye'

"If the United States didn't wink an eye to other countries, we wouldn't get anything. And I was told so by foreign officials," Calero said.

President Reagan said last week that during a February, 1985, White House meeting, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia mentioned that he had donated money to the contras. However, the President denied soliciting contributions from any foreign leaders.

Committee aides have said the Saudis contributed $32.5 million to the rebels.

Calero said the arms sales profits were only a "minor, very minor" part of the proceeds that were eventually received by the contras.

Calero also testified:

--CIA agents were present at a "pep talk" North conducted for the rebels, but for the most part the CIA "sort of stayed away from us."

--It was "a revelation" that retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord, who worked closely with North, took up to a 30% profit on arms he sold the rebels. Calero added that Secord also appeared to take credit for arranging the Saudi contributions.

--He never approved a wedding gift of $1,000 in traveler's checks North presented to his private courier, Robert Owen. Owen, who ended his testimony Tuesday, said he assumed that the money was approved by Calero.

--He "gladly" gave North about $90,000 in traveler's checks, apparently to help in secret efforts North was arranging to free the American hostages in Lebanon as part of the "furthering of freedom's cause."

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