Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Iran Arms and Contra Aid Controversy

January 30, 1987

The President is pleased that the first report on the Iran matter is out and that it confirms his position that he neither authorized nor was aware of the alleged transfer of funds to the contras.

The report is consistent with the President's position that, from its inception, the Iran initiative was an effort to open a dialog with top officials of a strategically important country. Numerous documents summarized in the report indicate that this was the view of Iranians, as well as those on the American side. In implementing this policy, the release of hostages was an important preliminary step intended to show that the Iranians would no longer support terrorism and the sale of arms was a gesture of good faith on the part of the United States in pursuing this strategic opening. To be sure, the linking of arms sales to the release of hostages at several points during this 15-month episode could be interpreted as a trade of arms for hostages, but this was not the policy approved by the President.

The report contains no evidence whatsoever that the President was aware of, let alone approved, any diversion of funds to the contras. The report brings to light for the first time statements by Lt. Col. Oliver North -- in his initial interview with Attorney General Meese -- to the effect that he did not believe that the President was aware of the alleged diversion. In addition, Admiral Poindexter's statements to Mr. Meese and Donald Regan -- that he had not inquired into the matter because ``he felt sorry for the the contras'' -- substantiates the President's statements that he was never told of this plan.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters at 9:15 a.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. Oliver North was a former National Security Council staff member, John M. Poindexter was Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and Donald T. Regan was Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff.