Billy Carter denied yesterday that he had "any influence" with the Libyan government and rejected Justice Department accusations that the Libyans promoted him as an intermediary with American corporations.
The president's brother protested that he has had no dealings with any U.S. companies, except for an oil company based in Jacksonville, Fla., about any proposed transactions with Libya since he first struck up an association with officials of the Arab nation in 1978.
"As I've told the Justice Department, since my first contact with Libya, I've gotten about 300 letters from individuals and companies" about Libyan projects, he said in a telephone interview from Americus, Ga. Carter said he doesn't answer the letters.
"I told them [the Justice Department's lawyers] that I don't have any influence," Carter said. "I wish I had that power."
The president's brother was forced to register as a foreign agent for the Libyan government Monday after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit accusing Carter of taking "substantial compensation" for promoting the controversial regime of Col. Muammar Qaddafi.
In its complaint, the Justice Department also charged -- without providng any details -- that Billy Carter "was held out by Libyan officials to the U.S. business community as a commercial intermediary through whom U.S. business entities could deal with Libya."
Carter said he was forced to sign a consent order, acknowledging his duty to register, without being allowed to read the complaint.
Of the charge that the Libyans touted him as an intermediary, Carter said, "That statement is not true. I wish that it was true, but it was not." s
One of Carter's lawyers, Stephen J. Pollak, confirmed that Justice Department attorneys insisted on Carter's signing the consent statement without reading the complaint. He said the papers would have been filed Friday, July 11, had it not been for a dispute over that point. Pollak said he did not know why the Justice Department was so insistent about the matter. h
"I thought it was unusual," he said.
The Justice Department has refused to comment about any of the details of its lawsuit or Carter's disclosures in his registration statement.
In the interview, yesterday, Carter denied any contacts with the Lockheed Corp., or the Boeing Co. -- both of which hold planes the Libyans want -- or any other U.S. firm except for the Charter Oil Co. of Jacksonville. Carter acknowledged talking with Libyan officials and Charter Oil executives about increased supplies of Libyan oil, but said no agreement has been reached.
As of last September, when Carter made his last trip to Libya at the Qaddafi regime's expense, about 60 American companies had offices in that country.
The American firms are prohibited only from exporting items said to be of military significance unless the government grants them a license.
President Carter formally notified Congress last Dec. 29 that Libya was among the countries that "have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism."
In his registration statement, Billy Carter said he is not currently performing any services for the Libyans, but he said he did get $20,000 from them in January and $200,000 more in April. He described the payments as installments on a promised $500,000 "loan," although no loan agreement has been executed.
Carter yesterday refused to say what interest rates he expected to be charged or when the loan must be paid off. He also declined to say what kind of a commission he expected to get from Charter Oil, which is currently getting 60,000 barrels a day from Libya, if the allocation should be increased.
"I'm keeping them [those details] private," he said. "I have very little privacy left."
President Carter apparently learned of the Libyan "loan" to Billy before it was made public, although the chronology remains somewhat murky.
In an ABC-TV interview televised early Wednesday, Billy Carter insisted he had not spoken with his brother about his registration and did not intend to.
The president told reporters Thursday in Jacksonville, however, that he had personally recommended to his brother "just a few days ago" that "he go ahead and make a complete revelation to the Justice Department . . . He thought it over for a while and then decided to do so. But I did not know about the activities before that."
Billy Carter refused to comment on the discrepancy between his statement and his brother's. "I'm in the middle of enough things without getting into the middle with the White House," he declared.
Billy Carter did point out, however that he had authorized his lawyers to talk to White House counsel Lloyd Cutler about the progress of his dispute with the Justice Department. Cutler had recommended that Billy Carter hire an attorney about a month ago and suggested Pollak and his colleague, former Watergate prosecutor Henry S. Ruth.
Pollak said yesterday he called Cutler last Friday, when it still seemed likely that the Justice Department suit and the registration statement would be filed that day.
"I reported a few details -- maybe two details -- particularly about the loan," Pollak recalled.
Cutler could not be reached for comment, but White House spokesman Ray Jenkins said Cutler then passed on what he'd been told to the president. Jenkins said it was clear from the president's remarks in Jacksonville that Jimmy Carter "did not speak with him [Billy] directly."
The president, however, indicated that his brother had not yet quite decided what to do when he urged him to "make a complete revelation." According to Billy Carter's lawyers, he had already decided last Friday to register. The only question remaining was the handling of the Justice Department lawsuit, which government lawyers apparently insisted on filing so that Billy would face contempt proceedings for any future omissions.
The issue was finally settled Monday when the consent order was reworded to make clear that, in signing it, Carter was not "admitting or denying or otherwise responding to the allegations" in the unseen complaint.
In a related development, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) made a formal request for Senate Judiciary Committee hearings designed to "expeditiously resolve the unanswered questions" about Billy Carter's Libyan connection.
Dole sent the request to the committee chairman, Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), along with a plea that Attorney General Benamin R. Civiletti be required to supply "all relevant documents and information concerning Mr. Carter's failure to properly register as an agent for the Libyan government."