Oliver L. North's courier to Central America says the former presidential aide told inquiring lawmakers the two were only acquaintances despite their extensive secret dealings to help the Nicaraguan rebels.

Robert W. Owen, who ferried intelligence information and money from North to Nicaraguan rebel leaders, testified that he met with the former National Security Council aide 80 to 100 times between 1983 and 1986.But Owen said North reported telling lawmakers in August 1986 that "he met me a couple of times."

"He said, `I met you a couple of times. I knew you were an activist supporting the Nicaraguan resistance,"' Owen quoted North as telling him after being questioned by a congressional intelligence panel.

Owen described during a day of testimony how he worked for North taking intelligence information, tactical guidance and sometimes money to the Contra leaders in Central America. But he said North told a different story to Congress.

Owen, 35, testifying under immunity from prosecution in the Iran-Contra affair, said that on three trips to Central America he gave Contra leaders intelligence maps that included locations of Nicaraguan government troops and details of the Managua airport for a "suicide mission" North proposed for destroying Soviet Hind helicopters.

Later, Owen said he helped the Contras open up the so-called "southern front" along the Costa Rican border, traveling to that country at North's behest to survey possible sites for an air strip that was eventually built to help the supply efforts.

Owen said delivered a secret encryption communications device to Joseph Fernandez, the CIA station chief in Costa Rica, which allowed the sending of messages in code by telephone.

North was careful to keep Owen's role in the resupply operations a secret but later suggested a change in his role because "it was time for me to look more legitimate," he said.