President Bush has asked former drug czar William Bennett to take over Lee Atwater's job as chairman of the Republican Party in January and Bennett has accepted, GOP sources said Saturday.

Bennett, a former secretary of education in Ronald Reagan's cabinet, formally resigned Nov. 8 as head of the Office of National Drug Control Strategy.A GOP source said Atwater, who managed Bush's 1988 presidential campaign, will continue to play a major strategy role for the GOP, possibly with a title as the party's "general chairman."

A formal announcement will not be made until Bush returns from his eight-day trip to Europe and the Persian Gulf, said the source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Atwater, 39, has been undergoing intensive treatment for cancer since a tumor was discovered on the right side of his brain last March.