Cuban Vice President Carlos Rafael Rodriguez said yesterday he "defies" the United States to present any intelligence information - including wire intercepts - that would connect Cuba to the Katangese rebels who invaded Zaire.
Rodriguez said Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei A. Gromyko told him, following Gromyko's visit to the White House last Saturday, that President Carter has made no attempt to provide documentation of the charge that Cuba trained and equipped the rebels.
Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Hodding Carter III yesterday called Rodriguez' Tuesday comments before the United Nations special session on disarmament "highly inappropriate" and "a personal attack on President Carter." Rodriguez had called President Carter's charges "absolutely false" and implied that the president was naively accepting lies from his own advisers.
The additional charges and counter charges intensified the international debate over Cuban involvement in the May 11 and 12 raid that even has set members of the Carter administration against each other. One high-level administration official who ojbects to the pressure on Cuba on grounds that the evidence of Cuban involvement is inconclusive admitted yesterday his side had lost the internal debate with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the presidential national security affairs adviser, on the heated African policy dispute.
A high administration source shown new intelligence material which White House officials contend implicates the Cubans said yesterday that "nothing about this is ever going to be conclusive." He said those senators disposed to believe the "evidence" would find it sufficient, while those who object to the policy will remain unconvinced.
Although top-level administration officials have been trying to minimize in their public statements the differences on the Soviet-Cuban role in Africa, there has been a sharp internal divergence of views of the nature of the crisis and the appropriate degree of American response.
Brezezinski has sounded the most vocal tones of public alarm over the Russians and Cubans while Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and his top advisers have been trying to avoid sharp East-West polarization over what they regard as an essentially African issue.
In he week since President Carter's charge of Cuban complicity in the Katanga invasion, Cuban Vice President Bodriguez has not only publicly denied the accusation but also had tried to enlist the support of those Cuba regards as sympathetic American officials, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young.
Rodriguez also met yesterday morning with Sen. George McGovern (D.S.D.), who proposed last week a unanimously accepted Senate Foreign Relations Committee resolution asking the administration for proof to back up its charges.
The Cubans have also tried to answer wide press coverage of Carter's charge with their own media counterattack. One high-level Cuban spokesman said yesterday that his government is "depending" on the U.S. press to prove the charges false.
Rodriquez said in an interview yesterday that Cuba may have trained some Katangese forces several years ago, when they joined with Angolan troops in that country's battle against South Africa and Zaire. But, he said, Cuba now has "no relation of any kind with the Katangese" and said "it is not possible" that Carter was referring to training for the two year old Angolan civil war.
"Carter is speaking about preparation in the frame of the [Katangan] operation."
Neither could Cuba have provided weapons for the raid, he said.
"It is impossible," Rodriquez said. "We don't manufacture weapons in Cuba."
"I know that the Katangese [were] given arms and weapons during the war against Zaire and South Africa. I don't know how many. I don't know what kind."
The Katangese secessionist forces, who are believed to number at least 250,000 in Angola, joined the Cuban and Soviet-backed Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) led by Angolan President Agostinho Neto at the time of Angolan independence in late 1975.
The Katangese had previously fought against the MPLA and joined Neto only to oppose invading Zaire.
Over the nearly two decades they have fought against Zaire, Rodriquez said, the Katangese have "accepted arms from many people . . . Soviet arms, Belgian arms, all kinds of arms.
"Cuban arms we could not give, because unfortunately, we don't have any."
Countering charges that the recent raid was too well organized to be the work of the rebels alone, Rodriguez said Angola has told Cuba that it was not involved, either.
But, he said, if the rebels appeared to be more organized than in past raids, "maybe they have had assistance."
While Rodriguez declined to speculate on who could have helped the rebels, U.N. and diplomatic sources have noted that East Germany may have had more reason to offer assistance than did Cuba.
According to this scenario, the East German involvement stems from Warsaw Pact efforts to thwart a reported secret contract between the Zaire government of President Mobutu Sese Seko and West Germany. The contract reportedly allows West Germany the use of Shaba (Katanga) province, the site of the raid, to develop and test a new type of rocket launcher for a "spy" satellite.
In a speech before yesterday's U.N. session, Angolan Prime Minister Lopo do Nascimento described the agreement he said was signed between the West German company OTRAG and Zaire as "the barrel of a gun aimed at the heart of my country."
Nascimento said that the agreement calls for "the establishment of a missile base on Zaire territory."
According to informed U.S. sources, East Germans are among the Soviet bloc advisers now in Angola. East Germany's defense minister, Gen. Heinz Hoffman, led a military delegation visiting Angola a the time the rebel invasion was launched.