Copyright 1987 The
May 12, 1987, Tuesday, Final Edition
SECTION: FIRST SECTION; PAGE A1
LENGTH: 1022 words
HEADLINE: President, Saudis Met Twice;
Funds Flowed to Contras After Talks
BYLINE: Bob Woodward, David B. Ottaway, Washington Post Staff Writers
President Reagan met personally with Saudi Arabian officials both on the eve of the Saudis' 1984 decision to begin contributing $ 1 million a month to the Nicaraguan contras, and again on the eve of the Saudi decision in February 1985 to sharply increase that contribution by giving $ 24 million more to the rebels, according to informed sources and public testimony.
Robert C. McFarlane, Reagan's former national security adviser, discussed the second of those meetings -- between Reagan and
The first meeting involving the president, sources revealed yesterday, occurred in the first week of May 1984, shortly before the Saudis began contributing $ 1 million a month to the contras. Reagan met at the White House with Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador in
In that same month of May 1984, the Reagan administration invoked an emergency procedure to bypass Congress and sell the Saudis 400 Stinger antiaircraft missiles worth $ 40 mil- lion.
In February 1985, Fahd paid a state visit to
McFarlane yesterday referred to
"But within a day or so, I was advised by a resident official of Country Two [presumably Prince Bandar, the ambassador] that, whether in that meeting or not, that they, Country Two, had elected to carry on with their contributions they had made but to be at about double the monthly level it had been the previous year."
McFarlane said he advised Reagan a day or so later of this by putting a notecard in the briefing book the president read each morning. Reagan's reaction, McFarlane said, was one "of gratitude and satisfaction, not of surprise."
A spokesman for the Saudi ambassador issued a statement yesterday saying that "during the visit of King Fahd to
The embassy also denied that Reagan and Fahd had met privately, though another Saudi source said previously that such a meeting had occurred.
Investigators in the Iran-contra affair are attempting to determine whether the Saudis expected or were improperly guaranteed foreign policy favors by the administration when the secret contra funding began.
In his testimony yesterday, McFarlane recalled that the unnamed ambassador from "Country Two" had expressed its hopes during various informal discussions with him "about assistance we could provide -- some cases arms sales -- and any of a dozen kinds of bilateral cooperation that was on his mind at the time."
According to bank records and other sources, the Saudis first offered to contribute $ 1 million in May 1984 and made their first actual payment in July. In May 1984, The Washington Post reported that the CIA had actively solicited Saudi aid to the contras the previous month.
During the memorial day weekend in late May, 400 Stingers were flown secretly to
Sources said that the administration had initially placed strict conditions on the sale of Stingers but King Fahd, who was distressed about the conditions dispatched a long, personal letter to President Reagan through Prince Bandar.
Bandar carried the letter to the White House the first week of May 1984. After Reagan read it, he said, "We don't put conditions on friends," according to two sources who were present at the meeting.
White House spokesman Dan Howard yesterday said that eventually, however, the administration placed "the toughest conditions we've ever imposed on anyone for the sale of Stinger missiles." Howard said, "the missiles were sold for our own national interest," and had no relationship to the alleged contra assistance.
At the same time he authorized the transfer of Stingers, the president approved the deployment of a U.S. Air Force aerial tanker to assist in refueling Saudi jets, and the
One administration source said the Saudis considered the administration actions "an important favor" at a time of heightened tension in the Iran-Iraq war and Saudi anxiety about a possible Iranian attack on its oil fields.
At the time of King Fahd's visit to
Part of the longstanding, close relationship between the