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Report says Bush knew of '85 Noriega drug charge

Reagan administration officials say Vice-President George Bush was told in December 1985 about charges that Panamanian leader Gen. Manuel Noriega was involved in drug trafficking, The New York Times reported Sunday. Mr. Bush has said he knew of no clear evidence that Noriega was involved in drugs until February, when Noriega was indicted on drug trafficking charges in Florida.

The Times, citing officials it did not name, said Edward Everett Briggs, United States ambassador to Panama, told Bush in a Dec. 16, 1985, meeting about cables sent to the State Department recounting allegations of Noriega's involvement with drugs.

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Bush has said he never saw or heard of the cables. Asked on May 5 whether he had ever been told of reports of Noriega's drug ties before the indictment, he said, ``Not that I was ever aware of.''

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