A unit in the Justice Department has launched an ethics inquiry of Attorney General Edwin Meese III, the lobbying group Common Cause disclosed Tuesday, and the 814-page report of independent counsel James McKay will provide the basis for the review.

Common Cause had pressed for the examination on July 6, asking that the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility look into whether Meese may have violated a 1965 executive order spelling out standards of ethical conduct for government employees."We have initiated an inquiry into your complaint and we will advise you of the results upon its conclusion," OPR counsel Michael Shaheen said in a one-paragraph letter to Common Cause, which publicly released copies.

Common Cause also asked OPR to examine whether Meese violated provisions of a federal law, the code of ethics for government service.

Common Cause filed its request the same day McKay referred his lengthy report detailing Meese's activities to the Justice Department, a step that was expected to lead to an inquiry by Shaheen's office.

Meanwhile, Meese said "there's no question I'm vindicated" of charges of wrongdoing despite an independent counsel's conclusions that he probably broke two tax laws and twice violated a conflict-of-interest law.

Meese mounted a strong counterattack to the report by independent counsel James McKay, saying the report's accusations against him in the absense of criminal action were "absolutely wrong and it's absolutely unfair."

The attorney general, interviewed on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America," said McKay found Meese had no criminal intention to violate the law.

Meese said that when the report is seen together with the response of his attorneys, "when you look at all the facts, you see that in fact I am vindicated. There's no question I'm vindicated."

McKay said Monday that "the toughest calls we made were not to proceed" with criminal charges against the attorney general. "It was not a close call to find that there were probable violations."