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President Bush complained at a private meeting that a strict interpretation of a policy regarding foreign coups would require him to notify Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega of any coup plot that could endanger his life, sources say.

The policy, which was started during the Reagan administration, was raised by Bush at a private meeting with Republican senators, intelligence sources said Sunday. The sources said Bush read the senators part of a classified letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee which outlined the restrictions.But Intelligence Committee Chairman David Boren, D-Okla., issued a statement Sunday contending that the policy was based on CIA guidelines that had been agreed upon by the executive branch.

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney has complained that Intelligence Committee guidelines inhibited the administration's flexibility in responding to events in Panama leading up to the failed attempt to oust Noriega.

The Washington Post Monday quoted a senior administration official as saying that although Bush contended the guideline might have required him to tell Noriega of a coup attempt, the president did not assert that such a restriction played any role in his decision to provide only limited assistance in the coup.

Boren said the report of Bush's complaints about the policy was a "selective leak" that distorted the situation at the time of his panel's October 1988 letter to Reagan.

While not acknowledging details of the policy, Boren said his letter merely restated the committee's understanding of CIA guidelines to carry out a 14-year-old ban on U.S. involvement in assassinations of foreign leaders.

"Our letter stated their policy as it had been told to us," said a committee source.

Boren, in a statement, said, "The plain truth is, there are ambiguities in the record" on both the congressional and executive side.

The Bush administration is redrawing its guidelines for U.S. officials who may be approached by the plotters of a coup. Boren has said his committee will welcome a discussion of any new guidelines with the administration.

Under some interpretations of the assassination ban, it would include a situation in which a coup unintentionally results in the leader's death.

In his statement, Boren said the 14-year-old assassination ban had been an executive order from the president, so any modification would be a White House prerogative.