Ambassador to Syria summoned

 

Miami Herald Washington Bureau

One day after FBI agents questioned the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon about his unauthorized participation in arms-for- hostages negotiations with Iran, the State Department recalled the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat in Syria to ask him what he knows about the discussions.

David Ransom, the ranking foreign service officer at the U.S. embassy in Damascus, was called home "in the process of the department trying to assemble all the facts, " spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said Wednesday. "It is part of the same investigation."

Secretary of State George P. Shultz disclosed Monday that Ambassador to Lebanon John H. Kelly, a career diplomat with no experience in the Mideast, had participated in "back-channel" discussions with two key participants in the Iranian arms scandal, fired National Security Council deputy Oliver North and retired Gen. Richard V. Secord.

Shultz read a cable from Kelly to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in which Kelly said that he had been briefed by former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane about "negotiations involving arms to Iran as an inducement to free the hostages" last summer, shortly before he left Washington for Beirut.

Shultz recalled Kelly to the United States, and he was interviewed Tuesday by both State Department officials and FBI agents.

Oakley announced Wednesday that Ransom is being brought back to answer questions, but she said that did not necessarily mean that Ransom had participated in secret or unauthorized discussions about American hostages in Lebanon.

Ransom became the top U.S. official in the embassy in mid-November when the administration ordered Ambassador William Eagleton back to the United States as a protest against Syria's involvement in the attempted bombing of an El Al airliner in London.

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