These points were made during testimony by Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams yesterday:


He said he had nothing to do with the private network that supplied the Nicaraguan contras because it would have been illegal. He said the State Department was concerned enough about the legality of the operations run by National Security Council aide Oliver L. North that in 1985 Secretary of State George P. Shultz asked him to "monitor Ollie," whom Shultz characterized as a "loose cannon." He said the description was a "bum rap" and said his only monitoring consisted in asking North several times if he was violating the law.


Abrams said he never told Lewis A. Tambs, the former ambassador to Costa Rica, to help the contras open a "southern front." He also denied Tambs' assertion that he was the brains behind a three-man government group involved in supporting the contras at a time when U.S. aid to them was prohibited. Tambs "doesn't know what he's talking about," Abrams testified.


Abrams conceded that he made a "great mistake" when he failed to tell a congressional hearing last November that he had solicited a $10 million contribution from the Sultan of Brunei for the contra rebels in Nicaragua. He agreed with Senate counsel Mark A. Belnick's characterization of his testimony: "Unless the senators asked you exactly the right question, using exactly the right words, they weren't going to get the right answer . . . ?"

But Abrams said he was in a bind at the hearing -- a regular briefing that happened to be held the day Attorney General Edwin Meese III announced that he had discovered funds from arms sales to Iran were being diverted to the contras. Abrams said he did not have Shultz's authorization to discuss the Brunei solicitation.