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Israeli in Iran-Contra Deal Said He Was In Mexico for Avocados

December 4, 1988

URUAPAN, Mexico (AP) _ Amiram Nir, the Israeli go-between in secret U.S. arms deals with Iran who died in a light plane crash last week, told people he was in Mexico to buy avocados, police said.

Federal authorities continued Sunday to investigate both the plane crash and Nir’s visit to Uruapan, an out-of-the-way city in the western mountains of Michoacan state famed for its avocados and notorious for drug trafficking.

New revelations about Nir’s role in the Iran-Contra affair, meanwhile, emerged Sunday in a Washington Post report quoting him as saying in June that a secret U.S.-Israeli agreement authorized counterterrorist operations he supervised with former White House aide Oliver North in 1985-86.

Nir, 37, was a counterterrorism adviser to Prime Minister Shimon Peres and his successor, Yitzhak Shamir.

In Jerusalem, the office of Peres, now foreign minister, denied the Washington Post report Sunday.

″There is no such agreement,″ Foreign Ministry spokesman Alon Liel said in a statement. He declined to elaborate.

U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, appearing on ABC-TV’s ″This Week with David Brinkley,″ was asked if such an agreement ever existed.

″Not that I know of,″ he replied.

Police here said they have no evidence that Nir’s visit involved anything but avocados. But they could not explain why he apparently decided to travel under an assumed name.

Jose Luis Arriaga, a Federal Judicial Police commander in Uruapan, said Nir spent three days at the best hotel in town and discussed avocado prices with a French-owned exporter. Nir was traveling on a visa issued Nov. 25 in London.

″He came to solicit prices for avocados,″ Arriaga said.

He said Nir had planned to return to Uruapan in a week, possibly to close a deal with the exporter Eupasa, a local subsidiary of Lucal France, a fruit and vegetable importer based in France.

When Nir left Uruapan on a charter flight he registered under an assumed name, Pat Weber. However, Arriaga said, Nir used his own name at the hotel in Uruapan.

Arriaga said police obtained information about Nir’s visit from Pedro Curchet, the local agent for Eupasa, which he said employs about 50 people in an avocado-packing operation in Uruapan.

Curchet identified Nir’s body in the wreckage of the Aerotaxis of Uruapan Cessna T-210 that went down Wednesday in the mountains outside Ciudad Hidalgo, about 110 miles west of Mexico City.

The pilot also died and three other people were seriously injured. One was a Canadian woman, Adriana Stanton, 25, who said she knew Nir only slightly and the others apparently were only sharing the chartered flight.

Stanton told The Associated Press Thursday that she did not know what Nir was doing in Mexico.

″I don’t know what his usual itinerary is. I don’t know if he comes to Mexico a lot,″ she said.

The Mexico City daily La Jornada said Saturday that Stanton was also traveling under an assumed name, Esther Arriaga. The newspaper did not quote a source for the information.

Curchet was one of a party of about eight people from Argentina who had been staying at the hillside hotel since September. Hotel personnel said they left Thursday or Friday.

They said Stanton arrived before Curchet and they did not know if she was working with him.

Hotel personnel and police who interviewed Curchet said the visit was Nir’s first. Curchet could not be located for comment, and the offices of Eupasa in Uruapan were closed Sunday.

Arriaga said the investigation involves Mexican aviation experts from Mexico City and the international police organization Interpol.

Israeli Embassy officials and friends of Nir in Israel have said Nir was in Mexico on a business trip but would not reveal the nature of the visit.

Arriaga said he did not know if Nir was acting as an independent buyer or as an agent for an importer abroad.

In November, local avocado businessmen formed the Association of Producers and Exporters to compete with the foreign exporters from Eupasa.

Federal authorities describe the region as critical to drug trafficking. Marijuana is grown clandestinely and the mountains are pocked wtih secret airstrips for transporting drugs.

Update hourly