MOSCOW -- The Soviet Union said Tuesday the removal of national security adviser John Poindexter and his assistant, Lt. Col. Oliver North, is an attempt to 'hush up' a scandal over U.S. arms sales to Iran.
The report on Poindexter and North was carried by the official Tass news agency less than an hour after the announcement in Washington - unusually fast reporting for the Soviet Union.
Tass followed immediately with the announcement by Attorney General Edwin Meese that money paid by Iran for U.S. arms had been channeled to the Contra rebels trying to overthrow the pro-Moscow government of Nicaragua.
Tass said the removal of Poindexter and North is an attempt to cover up the dealings with Iran.
'In this way the administration is trying to hush up the scandal over secret U.S. arms deliveries to Iran which were carried out on the order of the White House and were controlled by the staff of the National Security Council,' Tass said.
The news fromWashington came after a Soviet official hinted Washington may take unspecified 'risky actions' to divert attention from the scandal.
'The U.S. administration is currently in an extremely complicated situation,' Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Boris Pyadyshev said at a news conference. 'The Teflon coating that covered the White House in the initial period of the administration now has worn out.
'The U.S. administration probably is now dealing in the most serious arms deals and is to be blamed for the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative) program, the failure in Reykjavik and for the unpreparedness in reaching an arms control accord,' he said.
'Now the question arises whether one should envisage under the current circumstances that there might be immediate major and risky actions undertaken there to divert attention from the situation,' said Pyadyshev, who did not expand on the comments.
The U.S. administration has been torn asunder by what appears to be an arms-for-hostages deal, an interpretation Reagan denies by saying the 18 months of clandestine overtures and arms shipments to Iran were an attempt to shore up U.S. influence with moderates in line to replace the aging Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The Tass news agency, dubbing the affair 'Irangate,' said it had cost Washington dearly in credibility at home and abroad.
Pyadyshev did not depart from the line taken by the Soviet media since news of the secret deals leaked out two weeks ago. He made no mention of Reagan's attempt to win the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon and focused instead on the arms shipment to Tehran, involved in a 6-year-old war with Iraq.