An article yesterday about the Iran-contra hearings incorrectly stated that a nine-point agreement negotiated with Iranian intermediaries contained a promise of U.S. support for the removal of Iraqui President Saddam Hussein. As former national security adviser John M. Poindexter noted in his testimony yesterday, such a promise was not contained in the version of the nine points sent to the White House, on which he recalls briefing the president. (Published 7/22/87)

Former national security adviser John M. Poindexter, in his most combative day of testimony before the congressional Iran-contra panels, said yesterday he has no regrets about anything he did in that job and blamed the news media and Congress for an "overreaction" to the initial revelations.

"I think the actions that I took were in the long-term interests of the country, and I'm not going to change my mind," he told Sen. Paul S. Trible Jr. (R-Va.) in one of his few displays of temper in four days as a witness. "And I'm not going to be apologetic about it."

Asked by Rep. Dick Cheney (R-Wyo.) whether he had any concern about the impact of the affair on President Reagan's credibility, Rear Adm. Poindexter said:

"In my view, I think that the president has remained very credible throughout this whole episode. That, of course, was part of my plan."

That opinion appeared to conflict with three recent public opinion polls, which show that a majority of those surveyed do not believe Reagan is telling the truth when he says he did not know that proceeds from U.S. arms sales to Iran were used to support the Nicaraguan rebels.

The polling was done after Poindexter testified that he approved the diversion himself and deliberately did not tell Reagan to protect him from political embarrassment and provide him with "deniability" if the scheme ever became known.

Poindexter, who has admitted withholding information from Congress, also outlined his view yesterday that Congress now gets "too much" information about the details of covert actions, and contended that "the American people don't want to know those details."

"I don't think that it is possible to brief a limited number of members of Congress and then have them willing to take the necessary actions to preclude members that are unaware from asking questions that then again put the administration in a very difficult position," he said.

In other testimony, Poindexter:Denied knowing whether Reagan, Attorney General Edwin Meese III and White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan considered a pardon for Poindexter and North at a Dec. 16 meeting, as suggested during questioning by Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio). Later that day, the president came out in favor of limited immunity for Poindexter and North. {Details on Page A6.} Disclosed that on Saturday, Nov. 22, he had a late lunch with then-CIA Director William J. Casey and White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, but said he could not recall any details of the meeting except that they did not discuss the diversion of proceeds from the U.S.-Iran arms deals to support the contras. Earlier that day, Justice Department officials had discovered in North's files a memo suggesting for the first time that such a diversion might have taken place. Called retired major general Richard V. Secord and his business partner Albert A. Hakim "very patriotic." Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said he hoped Secord would be called back as a witness to clear up questions that had been raised about his use of funds from the U.S.-Iran arms sales. Was unable to shed light on the source of contra money between February 1986 and last fall, when U.S. government money again became available to support them militarily. Rep. Les Aspin (D-Wis.) said it appeared from records that the rebels received less than $3 million in new money during that period. Poindexter said he believed it cost $1 million a month to keep the contras in the field. Said in answer to questions from House Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) that he gave a briefing to the president during the 1986 campaign on the "nine points," an agreement that Hakim and Secord had worked out with Iranian representatives in October and cabled back to North in Washington. The points included a promise of U.S. support for the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and a plan for Iran to help free Lebanese terrorists held in Kuwaiti prisons. The president has denied to his staff that he ever saw the nine points, and The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Reagan was angry when told later of the planned concessions.

Yesterday's testimony was marked by numerous acrimonious exchanges between Poindexter and both Democratic and Republican panel members. Poindexter's attorney, Richard W. Beckler, repeatedly objected to the line of questioning, complaining that it was rehashing issues that had already been discussed, and he frequently reminded the committees that his client was on his eighth day of private or public testimony before the committees.

In a revealing exchange with Cheney, one of the House's most influential supporters of Reagan, the contra cause and covert action, Poindexter continued to express skepticism that Congress could be trusted with information about covert actions.

Cheney suggested that "if the relationship is going to work long-term, there have to be a handful of members of Congress who have enough knowledge about policy to be able to do whatever needs to be done on the Hill to support and sustain the president's efforts downtown."

Poindexter responded, "I certainly agree with you, Mr. Cheney, that we need to develop a better way." But he went on to say, "There needs to be greater acceptance of the fact that the president's power under the Constitution makes him the primary architect of foreign policy, and the American people have a chance every four years to confirm or deny that particular foreign policy."

If that was accepted, he said, the executive branch would be more willing "to talk to limited numbers of members of Congress that Congress decides are the appropriate ones, and then other people in Congress ought to stay out of the issue."

Cheney did not reply further. "I've used up my time. Thank you, Admiral," he said.

Later, in an exchange with Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.), Poindexter said he had not meant to imply that "I didn't think it would be a much better situation where there was trust and confidence." But he added, "I guess I'm a little pessimistic that we can make that work. Not that I don't think we should make it work. I think we should. But I guess I've had a bad experience."

At another point, Poindexter sharply criticized the congressional committees that oversee and finance covert activities.

"I understand that the intelligence committees and the appropriations commmittees of the Congress want to micromanage all covert operations and get details down to the level of sources," he said. "That information is not always provided. But it's my view that much too much information is provided to the Congress about the details of covert activity."

The former White House adviser appeared to become irritated by the repeated questions about his stated decision to keep the diversion plan a secret from the president. He has testified that he did not even tell North that Reagan did not know about the scheme, and was angry when he learned that North had confided the scheme to Poindexter's predecessor, Robert C. McFarlane, when North and McFarlane were returning from a secret trip to Tehran in May 1986.

"I frankly don't think in the whole scheme of things it's that important a decision," Poindexter said. "It obviously is a controversial one. The thing that's made it important in your {Sen. Boren's} eyes, in my mind, is the overreaction of the media to it, and members of Congress have to react to the media."

Poindexter was criticized by several committee members for ripping up the only copy of a 1985 presidential authorization, called an intelligence "finding," that he testified Reagan signed Dec. 5, 1985. The document had been drafted by then-CIA general counsel Stanley Sporkin to cover support for the transfer of arms to Iran in order to gain release of U.S. hostages held in Lebanon by pro-Iranian extremists.

It was designed to cover completed CIA activities in support of a controversial Nov. 25, 1985, Israeli transfer of arms to Iran and future similar transactions, Sporkin told the committees last month.

Yesterday, Poindexter said, "There really wasn't a forward-looking aspect to the {Dec. 5} finding."

However, testimony given to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence earlier this year challenges that assertion. On Dec. 5, the day the president signed the finding, then-CIA Deputy Director John A. McMahon held a meeting at the agency to discuss operations in support of another Israeli sale of U.S. arms to Iran that was to take place later in December, according to the testimony of current Deputy Director Robert M. Gates.

McMahon, who Poindexter said yesterday had "badgered" him to get the finding signed, wanted the presidential authorization not only to cover the prior agency support for the arms transfer, but also actions already being undertaken in support of the December shipment, according to CIA sources. CIA cables to stations overseas in the first week of December 1985, released two weeks ago by the Iran-contra committees, disclose that preparations were undertaken by CIA agents overseas to support the proposed Israeli shipment.

As it turned out, the December arms transfer was called off after McFarlane reported he did not trust the Iranian middlemen.

In a matter related to the private funding of the contras, Poindexter said he could shed little light on why $1.5 million had been spent by Secord's organization to buy arms for the rebels through Monzer Alkassar, identified by Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Texas) as a Syrian arms merchant.

"He's the one that . . . the police suspected is an arms supplier for terrorists, and among his associates is the PLO's {Palestine Liberation Organization} Abu Abbas, who masterminded the Achille Lauro hijacking," said Brooks.

"I know that name, I just don't remember knowing Alkassar," said Poindexter. He added that "when you're buying arms on the world arms market . . . you often have to deal with people you might not want to go to dinner with."

According to committee records compiled from accounts supplied by Hakim, Alkassar received $1 million on Aug. 30, 1985, and a second payment of $500,000 on June 20, 1986.

Staff researcher Michelle Hall contributed to this report.