White House rejects allegation that Reagan encouraged a cover-up

Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said yesterday that a weekend news story wrongly interpreted Ronald Reagan's reaction to the initial disclosure last November of the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. A Sunday Washington Post article said notes taken by a National Security Council official at a Nov. 10 White House meeting indicated that Mr. Reagan ``actively led the initial effort last November to conceal the essential details of his arms-for-hostages program and keep it alive....''

Mr. Fitzwater said, ``This is an old story dealt with in its entirety in the Tower board.'' He quoted the February report of the three-man presidential commission headed by former Republican Sen. John Tower of Texas, which said:

``The President wanted to avoid providing too much specificity or detail out of concern for the hostages still held in Lebanon and those Iranians who had supported the initiative.... He did not, we believe, intend to mislead the American public or cover up unlawful conduct.... By at least Nov. 20, the President took steps to ensure that all the facts would come out.''

The Post said that, according to the recently released notes, the President told top advisers, including Cabinet members: ``We don't talk TOWs, don't talk specifics.'' (The arms shipments to Iran included TOW antitank weapons.)

Fitzwater, commenting aboard Air Force One on a presidential trip to Wisconsin, said: ``I think the President is disturbed that this issue was so thoroughly reviewed by the Tower board and openly discussed at the time and somehow the facts have been overlooked.''

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