Pakistani Arms Dealer Claims He Worked To Free Hostages
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ A man arrested last fall on charges of illegally exporting arms says he met with Lt. Col. Oliver L. North and CIA agents to arrange arms deals in a bid to free American hostages in Lebanon.
Arif Durrani, 37, was arrested Oct. 3 by U.S. Customs agents and has been held without bond since then.
Prosecutors say the Pakistani-born Durrani shipped $22,000 worth of Hawk missile parts that were intended for Iran. U.S. Attorney Stanley Twardy, who has maintained that Durrani had no role in the Reagan administration ’s arms sales stategy, said today he had not seen Durrani’s affidavit and had no comment on it.
In the affidavit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport, Durrani said that although he was not directly hired by the government, he understood that he was working for the United States.
″Prosecution of me under these circumstances is not justified,″ Durrani said in the affidavit, filed in support of a motion to dismiss the charges against him.
Durrani said he met a ″Mr. White″ three times in London in September and has since learned the man was North, the National Security Council official dismissed over his role in the arms controversy.
Durrani said North encouraged him to go ahead with the Hawk parts shipment and assured him a paperwork problem would be taken care of.
In his affidavit, Durrani said he arranged to purchase the missile parts at the request of U.S. government agents based in Europe. He said one agent was a former police chief in Tehran, Iran, who had free access to Iran and was acting on behalf of the Central Intelligence Agency.
″I knew that the government of the United States was moving large quantities of arms to Iran through various entities and individuals,″ Durrani said in the affidavit. He said he was told that the shipments were made to help free hostages in Lebanon.
Sharon Foster, a spokeswoman for the CIA in Washington, said Wednesday there would be no comment on Durrani’s allegations. North has consistently refused to comment on his role in the case.
Durrani comes from a family of wealthy arms dealers in Pakistan, according to court documents. He attended American colleges and ran his own company, Merex Inc., in Newbury, Calif. The company sold aircraft components, according to Durrani.
The administration has acknowledged government sales of arms to Iran totaling $12 million to $42 million. The New York Times has reported that sales may have exceeded $1 billion.