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Shultz Disputes Power to Halt Iran Deal 'in Tracks'

July 24, 1987|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State George P. Shultz adamantly dismissed a suggestion today that he and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger could have stopped the Iran weapons plan "dead in its tracks" by threatening to resign if President Reagan pursued it further.

"I'm there to help the President, not make his life more difficult," said Shultz in his second and last day of testimony to the congressional Iran- contra committees.

He again accused former National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter of consistently deceiving him about the diversion of Iran arms sales profits to buy weapons for the Nicaraguan contras.

"From time to time I asked him what's going on," Shultz said. "What I got was not candid."

"I had no idea of the misrepresentations that characterized this whole thing," he said.

Shultz also suggested that President Reagan was the hero of the Iran-contra affair for trying to get the facts out.

Characterized as Hero

Alluding to a member's comment Thursday that he was a hero for having opposed the secret arms sales to Iran, Shultz said:

"You want to look for a hero? I think in many respects it's Ronald Reagan, who . . . instructed everybody, 'We're not going to cover anything up; we're going to move forward and make it all available.' "

Republicans and Democrats alike praised Shultz for candor. Sen. Paul S. Trible Jr. (R-Va.), a contra supporter, said the secretary's actions and testimony "vividly demonstrate that public service can be rooted in principle and graced by nobility."

And Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), who called the Iran policy flawed, said "you were right, you were absolutely right, and the other side was absolutely wrong."

But Hyde said Shultz and Weinberger "could have stopped it dead in its tracks" by telling Reagan, "Mr. President, if you do this, because I love you and respect you, you got to do it without me and you got to do it without Cap."

Replied Shultz: "I doubt it very much."

Cites Long Opposition

He recounted his long opposition to selling arms to Iran, beginning in mid-1985.

"During that period, I unearthed it, I opposed it, I thought I had taken part in killing it on more than one occasion," he said.

"It was clear as it went on that the President had a desire to do it and I didn't just say, 'Well, you seem to be leaning against me, I'm going to resign. . . . ' That's not the way to play this game at all. I'm there to help the President, not make his life more difficult."

The hearings also disclosed a Nov. 23 letter from former CIA Director William J. Casey to Reagan saying that "we need a new pitcher" and that Shultz should be replaced. At that time, Shultz testified Thursday, he was locked in a "battle royal" with Casey and Poindexter.

Shultz said he had not known about the letter but remarked dryly: "There were a lot of people outside the government who were after my scalp. . . . People are always after my scalp."

Then, in a joke at the expense of his sparse hairline, he said, "There's not much left up here."

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