Government Meeting On Radiation Victims

WHITE House adviser George Stephanopoulos said Sunday the government should help people who were unwilling subjects of cold-war-era radiation tests but said the administration has not decided on compensating radiation test victims.

``If these people were tested against their will, if they were injected with plutonium against their will, certainly something must be done to right that,'' Mr. Stephanopoulos said on ``This Week with David Brinkley.''

The administration plans meetings this week on how to deal with disclosures that the government conducted nuclear medical experiments, mainly during the 1940s and 1950s, on up to 800 people, some of whom may not have understood the dangers.

Subjects included mentally retarded teenagers from a Massachusetts state school.

Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary said last week she felt that some victims of these tests may deserve compensation, and Stephanopoulos said the administration is still studying the issue.

``We want to make sure we have all the facts, then we will determine the next step,'' he said.

``You are talking about an awful lot of people, but you're also talking about an awful lot of injustice if these facts are true, and we have to get to the bottom of it,'' Stephanopoulos said.

President Clinton Saturday said he supported Ms. O'Leary's release of documents that disclosed the cold-war-era tests backed by the Atomic Energy Commission, forerunner of the United States Energy Department. GOP Calls for Prosecutor

Republican congressional leaders demanded on Sunday that an independent counsel investigate President Clinton's dealings in an Arkansas real estate venture and failed savings and loan.

Republicans took advantage of the quiet New Year's Day weekend to create a loud drumbeat of criticism, calling on Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel.

At issue is the role Mr. Clinton played, as Arkansas governor, in the Whitewater real estate deal and whether he used his influence to keep an ailing savings and loan institution afloat.

But, at the same time, the Republicans opposed renewing a law that codifies the appointment of independent prosecutors.

``I think it's up to Janet Reno now to step back and appoint a counsel, and for the president's own good, get it behind us,'' Senate minority leader Bob Dole of Kansas said on NBC's ``Meet the Press'' program.

Stephanopoulos replied flatly on ABC's ``This Week with David Brinkley'' program: ``There is no need at this time for an independent counsel.'' Stephanopoulos said the matter was being investigated by the Justice Department.

And he sarcastically hailed the ``conversion'' of Republicans who in the past have opposed the special-prosecutor law. But Mr. Dole said there was no need to renew the special-prosecutor law, which provided that an independent prosecutor be chosen by a three-judge panel instead of the attorney general. The law expired in 1992.

``She [Reno] has the authority now to appoint [an] independent counsel,'' said Dole, who voted against renewing it.

His sentiments were echoed by House Republican Whip Newt Gingrich on ABC's ``This Week with David Brinkley.'' Mr. Gingrich, of Georgia, said there was ``no question we need an independent counsel on Whitewater.... If they are innocent, why don't they agree [to the special counsel].''

Whitewater Development Corporation was at the heart of a failed real estate venture that cost Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, $69,000. They were partners in the venture with James McDougal, a businessman who headed the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan.

The Republicans said they want an independent prosecutor to find out if Clinton had any role in Whitewater as governor, and if he had used his influence to try to keep the troubled Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan from failing. Ultimately, Madison collapsed, costing taxpayers $60 million.

On Saturday, Iowa Rep. James Leach, the top Republican on the House Banking Committee, said he believed Clinton eventually could face civil, or even criminal, charges.

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