Billy Carter called the White House last year to inquire about sales of C130 military air transports wanted by the Libyan government, according to informed sources.
The president's brother told Justice Department investigations in January that he contacted White House appointments secretary Philip J. Wise Jr. about the matter.
But, according to one account of the Jan. 16 interview, Billy Carter refused to answer when he was asked about any attempts to influence the president about releasing the planes.
He also refused to say whether he made any attempts through his mother, Lillian, to influence his brother on the issue, telling investigators it was none of their business, one source said.
The government's refusal to grant an export license that would provide the Libyans with eight C130s has been one of the biggest sore spots in U.S.-Libyan refused to approve the shipment on the grounds that some C130s Libya bought in 1969 were used for terrorist activities.
Wise, a longtime Carter family friend, told FBI agents on March 14 that he could not recall the telephone call that Billy Carter mentioned.
Billy Carter referred to the conversation with Wise in an interview at his Buena Vista, Ga., home, where Justice Department lawyers unsucessfully sought to get him to register as a foreign agent for the Libyans.
The president's brother had already received $20,000 from the Libyans when the questioning took place, according to other Justice Department interviews.
Sources said that an associate of Billy Carter, Randy Coleman, told investigators recently that Billy Carter first sought a loan from Libyan officials Ahmad Shahati and Ali Houderi in May 1979.
Coleman said the Libyans told Billy Carter they would consider the suggestion. Coleman said he checked with Libyan officials about once a week after that, asking about the status of the loan, until they finally gave him a $20,000 check on Dec. 27, according to the sources.
Coleman told investigators that he mailed the check to Carter from the Washington, D.C., airport.
The payment came just a month after the White House used Billy Carter as an intermediary to set up a meeting between Houderi and national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski about the American hostages in Iran. Officials have acknowledged that the White House's use of Billy Carter as a go-between probably enhanced his status with the Libyans.
Sources said that Coleman told investigators he picked up a second check, for $200,000, for Billy Carter in Washington on April 13. It was reportedly deposited the next day in Billy Carter's account at the People's Bank of La Grange, Ga.
Billy Carter registered as an agent for the Libyans on July 14 after the Justice Department learned of the $220,000 he had received. Coleman registered last week.
The Jan. 16 interview at Billy Carter's home was conducted primarily by Joe Lisker, the head of the Justice Department's foreign agents registation unit.
During that meeting, sources said, the president's brother also told the investigators that he had seen all the State Department's cable traffic about his trips to Libya in 1979, but it was not clear how he obtained access to them.
Lisker gave Billy Carter a registration form at that meeting, but the president's brother refused to register, according to Justice Department records. He did not mention the $20,000 he had gotten from the Libyans less than three weeks earlier.
In addition to refusing to answer questions about any attempts to influence the president, either directly or through their mother, about the C130s, Billy Carter also declined to respond when asked about any attempts to influence other government officials. Again, sources said, he told the investigators it was none of their business.
The Libyan government has paid the Lockhead Aircraft Corp. $64.2 million for the eight C130s, including about $23 million for spare parts and ground support equipment, since it contracted to buy the planes in 1972. According to a Lockhead spokesman. Libya assumed full responsibility for getting an export license.
The government of Col. Muammar Qaddafi took title to, and paid for, the aircraft between December 1973 and July 1974. The planes have been "stored" on a ramp at Lockhead's Marietta, Ga., plant ever since. No refund has been sought.
Sources said that Billy Carter stated in the Jan. 16 interview that he had no apologies to make for his friendship with the Libyans and that he regarded himself as anti-Zionist, citing objections to Zionist activities such as the kidnaping of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann from Argentina years ago.
According to a White House "white paper" issued July 2i on contacts involving Billy Carter, White House appointments secretary Wise was interviewed by the FBI on June 4 about conversations with Billy Carter concerning Libya. Billy Carter has reportedly called Wise between 300 and 400 times in the last four years about various matters.
On June 10, six days after Wise's last FBI interview, Billy Carter arranged a meeting with Lisker for the next day. During that meeting, he acknowledged receiving $220,000 from the Libyans. The Justice Department had confirmed the payments on June 2.
The chronology has led to suspicions that someone tipped off the president's brother about the progress of the Justice Department's case.
White House press secretary Jody Powell has denied that the FBI told Wise it knew about the payments to Billy Carter or that Wise had alerted him to the government's renewed interest in the case.
"To the best of [Wise's] recollection," Powell said last week, "the only people who knew about that [June 4] FBI conversation with him were Nell Yates [Wise's assistant], who helped him type up the notes from it, and [White House counsel] Lloyd Cutler's office."