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SPECTER MEETS WITH WEAVER ON '92 SIEGE

Sen. Arlen Specter met Saturday with white separatist Randy Weaver to hear his version of a deadly siege in Idaho.

The Pennsylvania Republican later said that a "cloud" hangs over American law enforcement.Specter will head congressional hearings beginning Sept. 6 into the standoff that left Weaver's wife and son, and a deputy U.S. marshal dead.

On Friday, the Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into whether senior FBI officials covered up their role in the siege.

Specter, who is seeking his party's presidential nomination, conceded the standoff has tarnished the reputation of federal authorities, but rejected suggestions that the congressional hearings will undermine their law enforcement efforts.

After meeting privately with Weaver in Des Moines, Specter said the circumstances surrounding the shootout were "bizarre." He did not elaborate on what Weaver told him.

"I regret to say that there's a considerable cloud today and I think that considerable cloud has been recognized by the Department of Justice," Specter said.

Weaver moved from Iowa to an isolated section of Idaho as he grew more distrustful of the government and sought to follow his white separatist views.

After failing to show up for a 1991 trial on weapons charges, federal authorities surrounded his cabin. The 18-month standoff culminated in August 1992, when his son Samuel and U.S. Deputy Marshal William Degan were killed in a flurry of gunfire.

The next day, an FBI sniper shot and killed his unarmed wife, Vicki. The government says the sniper was aiming at an armed Weaver associate running into the cabin. Weaver surrendered shortly afterward.

He was acquitted in July 1993 of murder-conspiracy charges stemming from the standoff, but convicted of failing to appear on the earlier charges. He was released from jail in December 1993.

Since then, he's been living quietly in Grand Junction, Iowa, with his three daughters. He rejects interview requests.