Shortly after the CIA reported in April 1984 that Secretary of State George P. Shultz approved of an initiative for the agency to act as "honest broker" between South Africa and a Central American government supportive of the Nicaraguan contras, Shultz told a White House adviser that he opposed asking Pretoria to aid the contras, according to State Department and congressional sources.

The proposed CIA initiative, which was disclosed in testimony released Wednesday by the congressional Iran-contra panels, came as U.S. military aid for the contras was expiring and then-Central Intelligence Agency Director William J. Casey was leading an effort in the Reagan administration to seek funds abroad.

At Casey's direction, the then chief of the CIA's Latin American division, Dewey R. Clarridge, visited South Africa April 9-13, but according to his partially declassified Aug. 4 testimony before the House and Senate panels he never sought or received offers of aid on that trip.

Instead, he maintained, he learned that Pretoria was only offering to provide bilateral assistance in connection with the contras to an unidentified government, and only on condition that it was paid.

The issue of Shultz's support for the activities was raised by a CIA cable from Washington to Pretoria dated April 9, 1984, the day Clarridge arrived. It stated: "Secstate has been briefed on the initiative and approves."

On April 18, in a conversation with then national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane, Shultz said he was opposed to the United States' seeking aid for the contras from either Israel or South Africa, according to a chronology reviewed by the State Department.

"We must do it ourselves," the chronology quotes Shultz as saying.

Congressional sources said yesterday that Shultz's position was not necessarily inconsistent with the CIA cable, which apparently did not refer to South Africa helping the contras but rather to the CIA playing the role of "honest broker" in a bilateral support arrangement with a government supportive of the rebels.

However, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley, responding yesterday to an article in The New York Times, labeled as "false" any impression that Shultz had approved going to South Africa for aid to the contras.

Meanwhile yesterday, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater responded to the reports of a 1984 approach to South Africa by saying that "countries are free to do whatever they want, but we have no viewpoint at this point to express."

Clarridge, in his testimony that was made public Wednesday, said, "the director had already decided prior to any trip to {deleted}, after I think consultation with Secretary Shultz, that even if {deleted} offered anything we would not accept it."

CIA cable traffic between Washington and Pretoria indicates, however, that the approach was not actually called off until May 1, as a result of the "furor" over the "Nicaraguan project," which Clarridge said was a cable reference to the public outcry following disclosures of CIA involvement in the mining of Nicaraguan harbors.

The May 1 cable said: "Please express to {deleted} my deep regret that we must do this, at least for the time being, and I fully realize that he cannot crank up assistance on a moment's notice, should we decide to go forward in the future."

Shultz told the Iran-contra panels July 23 that he expressed his opposition to McFarlane to a plan to approach Israel in April 1984 for help for the contras, but learned that it was done anyway.

McFarlane testified that he initially raised the subject with an Israeli official here in connection with talks about Israel's possible participation in the Caribbean Basin Initiative. Subsequently, a National Security Council staff member was sent to Israel in disregard of Shultz's wishes. The emissary sought a contribution to the contras, but he was turned down.

Shultz also testified that he had learned for the first time in June 1986 from McFarlane of successful solicitations of Saudi Arabia in 1984 and 1985, and did not find out that Taiwan had contributed $2 million until the hearings began.

In 1986, Shultz himself was involved in the successful effort to raise $10 million for the contras from Brunei, but that was after Congress had specifically allowed the State Department to seek humanitarian aid from foreign countries.

The solicitation program, however, became a central issue in the Iran-contra affair, with some committee members warning that it set up long-term obligations on the part of the U.S. government, or could appear to be an effort to extort assistance from governments reliant on U.S. economic or military help.

At the time of the CIA approach to South Africa in 1984, a debate was beginning in Congress over U.S. policy toward that country. Congress eventually voted for sanctions, a measure the Reagan administration had opposed.

Taiwanese interests contributed $2 million for contra assistance in late 1985 and 1986, during a heated debate over a textile import restraint bill that President Reagan eventually vetoed over the objections of textile-producing states.