09/10/97 - 02:50 PM ET - Click reload often for latest version

Donor reportedly offered Yeltsin money

LOS ANGELES - A major Democratic Party donor offered $100 million to Russian President Boris Yeltsin's 1996 presidential campaign in exchange for support of a proposed Central Asia oil pipeline, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Citing classified CIA documents, confidential congressional depositions and unidentified sources, the Times said Roger Tamraz told contacts in the Central Intelligence Agency that he planned to inform President Clinton about his efforts to finance Yeltsin's campaign.

Tamraz, the 57-year-old son of a self-made Lebanese millionaire and a graduate of Harvard Business School, said he never told Clinton about his Russian initiative, according to the newspaper.

Special White House Counsel Lanny J. Davis said: "The president doesn't recall the specifics of any conversation with Mr. Tamraz."

Tamraz sought Moscow's support for his pipeline, which was never built, because of Russian influence in the former Soviet republics through which the pipeline would have been constructed.

The Times said Tamraz discussed the proposed $100 million contribution in a secret 1995 meeting with top aides to Yeltsin in Italy.

However, the newspaper said it couldn't determine if Tamraz ever gave Yeltsin's campaign any money, which could be regarded as a bribe and in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act if it was intended as payment for services rendered.

Tamraz, a naturalized citizen who also sought U.S. government support for his proposed pipeline, contributed $300,000 to state and federal Democratic organizations during the 1996 election campaign. He is a fugitive from Lebanese authorities after being charged in a $200 million Beirut bank embezzlement scheme in 1989,.

Tamraz was the focus Tuesday when the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee called former Democratic Party chairman Donald L. Fowler to testify at hearings on alleged fund-raising abuses during 1996 U.S. election campaigns. Tamraz's contributions to the party were explored but his alleged contact with the Russians wasn't brought up.

By The Associated Press



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