Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North drew several high-ranking Reagan administration officials deeper into the Iran-contra affair yesterday while admitting without regret that he and his White House superiors lied to Congress about covert assistance to the Nicaraguan rebels.

In a second day of riveting testimony, the former White House aide told the Iran-contra panels that Secretary of State George P. Shultz had put his arm around his shoulder at a social event last September and "told me what a remarkable job I had done keeping the Nicaraguan resistance alive."

North later elaborated: "I knew what he meant. He didn't have to say, 'You did a great job on the L100 resupply on the night of the ninth of April.' He knew in sufficiently eloquent terms what I had done."

With that, Shultz joined a growing list of top officials cited by North as knowing more than previously disclosed about his secret support from the White House for the contras while U.S. military aid was prohibited by law. Two others named yesterday as being aware of details of his military-support activities were the late CIA director William J. Casey and Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams.

A spokesman for Shultz confirmed that the secretary had congratulated North but said the secretary was referring only to the lieutenant colonel's efforts at bolstering morale of the resistance and "was not indicating either his knowledge or approval of the matter to which North has testified."

In his appearance before the investigative committees, Abrams denied knowing the details of North's operations.

And yesterday Attorney General Edwin Meese III said through a spokesman that some of North's testimony about his knowledge of 1985 transfers of U.S. arms from Israel to Iran was not correct.

Pointing up the personal drama of North's long-anticipated testimony were his repeated assertions of his isolation and vulnerability, alone among all the high officials with whom he once worked closely. Yesterday he again described himself not only as the scandal's political "scapegoat" but as the central focus of a criminal investigation led by independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh.

"I was supposed to be dropped like a hot rock when it all came down, and I was willing to serve in that capacity," he said. But, he added with emotion, "I was not willing to become the victim of a criminal prosecution."

During six hours of questioning, North:Credited Iranian businessman Manucher Ghorbanifar, the intermediary in the U.S.-Iran arms deals, with the idea of using "residual" funds from the sale of weapons to Tehran to assist the contras fighting the government of Nicaragua. North said he considered Ghorbanifar an Israeli agent and that Casey had told him the Iranian worked for Israeli intelligence. Ghorbanifar broached the idea of a diversion to the contras in the bathroom of a London hotel in January 1986, North said. The first two transactions in February and May 1986 resulted in payments of $25 million into the Secord-Hakim accounts, of which only $8 million had to be repaid to the Central Intelligence Agency for weapons sold out of American stocks. Said he never kept track of how former Air Force major general Richard V. Secord was spending money generated by the arms sales and was "shocked" to learn from evidence presented at the hearings that $8 million remains in Swiss bank accounts under the control of Secord and his business partner, Albert A. Hakim, and that Secord's operation had spent only about $4 million on the contras. Revealed that the excess funds generated by the arms sales were intended for "other" covert activities. North said Casey wanted "something we could pull off the shelf and use at any moment." Said he did not recall telling Marine Lt. Col. Robert L. Earl last Nov. 25 that President Reagan had said in a telephone conversation that day, "It's important that I not know" about the diversion of U.S.-Iran arms sale proceeds to the contras. North repeated his assertion that the president had said, "I just didn't know." But North said it was possible he had told Earl, "It's important that I, Col. North, understand that he {the president} did not know."

Earl has been questioned by the committees, but it is unclear whether he will testify in public.

Yesterday's testimony was in some respects even more compelling than North's initial appearance on Tuesday as the former National Security Council aide took the committees and a national television audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions. During the morning, he was the masterful witness spinning lurid images of terrorists threatening his family, waxing eloquent in support of the contra cause and depicting the diversion of U.S.-Iran arms sale proceeds to the rebels as a "neat idea" that stung Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

By late afternoon, however, an evidently strained North was growing increasingly combative and defensive, as House chief counsel John W. Nields Jr. pressed him about a string of misstatements to Congress and his role in falsifying or destroying important White House documents.

Apparently upset, North delivered an unusual self-defense: "I want you to know lying does not come easy to me. I want you to know it doesn't come easy to anybody. But I think we all had to weigh in the balance the difference between lives and lies."

From caustic sparring involving North, Nields and North's attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., the day built to a full-fledged confrontation between the committees and North over his view that Congress could not be trusted with the secrets of his covert operations.

North spoke of Congress' "incredible leaks," which he said came when "American lives were at stake." One leak he cited was the U.S. role in the 1983 mining of Nicaraguan harbors, which was not disclosed until 1984. Concealment of that operation from key members of Congress was denounced by prominent conservatives as well as liberals.

"Those kinds of {leaks} are devastating," North said. "They are devastating to the national security of the United States."

After the conclusion of Nields' questioning, an evidently angry Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate investigative committee, addressed North: "I've sat here very patiently listening to statements suggesting that members of Congress can't be trusted with the secrets of this land." He then said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the CIA had turned up no leaks during the two years he chaired the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. And he noted that the head of the National Security Agency had advised him that there had been no evidence of leaks since the creation of the Senate and House committees investigating the Iran-contra affair.

"I don't know who you're talking to," Inouye said, "but I can assure you that these committees can be trusted."

A Nields question about a contra leader who received $225,000 from what North described as a "full-service" covert-action fund produced an effusive North account of the transformation of the unidentified recipient from Nicaraguan revolutionary to anti-Sandinista "freedom fighter."

North used questions about the diversion of arms-sale proceeds to the Nicaraguan rebels -- a scheme concealed from Congress and which may have violated the law -- to make an unrepentant defense of the strategy. "I must confess that I thought using the Ayatollah {Khomeini's} money to support the Nicaraguan freedom fighters was a good idea . . . . I don't think it was wrong. I think it was a neat idea. And I came back, and we did it."

Similarly, he turned a potentially embarrassing line of questions about his acceptance of a $13,800 home-security system paid for by Secord into a discourse on terrorist Abu Nidal, who North said had made threats on his life. At one point North offered to meet Nidal "on equal terms anywhere in the world" but said he would not expose his family to risks.

A U.S. official who served with North in the counterterrorism program said he remembers North "taking pride" in being named by Nidal. He said there was no reported evidence of a precise plan by Nidal to carry out the threat and that other U.S. officials had received similar notoriety without seeking special protection.

Appearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last September, North testified that as a result of organized protests and other harassment, he moved his family to Camp Perry at the suggestion of the FBI and Secret Service "while improved security procedures were installed in his home at North's expense," according to a committee summary.

He testified yesterday that he never asked about a bill for the security improvements until December.

In other testimony, North justified keeping secrets -- and lying -- on various grounds. On Tuesday he admitted attributing a made-up statement to Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and passing it on to Iranian representatives on grounds that it could help get hostages released.

Yesterday, he said he had proposed not telling Weinberger the real reason for giving additional military aid to a Central American country because the memo "could be seen by hundreds of people" on the way up to the secretary. The real reason was that the country was supplying import certificates for weapons destined for the contras during the congressional ban on U.S. military aid to the rebels.

North's testimony occasionally conflicted with that of others.

For example, he said that Hakim had described as "lunacy" the idea of an advance group of Americans going to Tehran before a high-level U.S. delegation. Last month, however, Hakim had testified that he believed such an advance team should have gone to "set up the bounds for the meeting and make sure everything's proper."

North said he could not remember the details or dates of a number of key conversations. When confronted with his handwritten notes of a telephone conversation with Abrams that could have contradicted Abrams' testimony, North said, "I do not have any recollection of that meeting, but I do not deny that I discussed those at various times with Mr. Abrams and others."

The notes referred to an April 25, 1986, "meeting with Elliott" at which an airbase, aircraft, supplies for the contras' "southern front" and 100 Blowpipe missiles were listed as having been discussed.

House minority counsel George Van Cleve is due to start questioning this morning, to be followed by Senate chief counsel Arthur L. Liman, whose cross-examination is expected to result in clashes with North's attorney, Sullivan.

Yesterday Sullivan lashed out at the committees, accusing them of a "stall" that he said was aimed at extending the hearings beyond Friday. Sullivan read from a letter of understanding that said the committees intend to complete North's testimony by Friday evening.

But Inouye, saying that he wanted the record clear, read from the full letter, which stated that the "scope and nature of North's testimony could result in his testimony continuing beyond four days."

Toward the close of the afternoon session, Sullivan lashed out one last time, saying, "I'm tired frankly of going home at the end of the day and seeing members of this committee on the TV saying {North's} not being truthful."

@North, left above, testifies while seated near Sullivan and blowup of document; below, Sullivan makes point of order.