Arizona Sen. John McCain testified Friday he believes his Arizona colleague, Dennis DeConcini, arranged a crucial 1987 meeting that senators held with federal regulators on behalf of Charles H. Keating Jr.

McCain, defending himself against suggestions of impropriety in dealing with Keating, disputed the testimony of a former Keating aide who said it was Sen. Donald Riegle of Michigan who set up the April 2, 1987, meeting.That meeting, which four senators held with Edwin J. Gray, then the top federal thrift regulator, has emerged as a critical event in allegations against the so-called Keating Five senators.

The ethics panel is investigating allegations the senators improperly intervened with regulators on behalf of Keating and his failing Lincoln Savings and Loan, at a time when Keating was raising or contributing $1.3 million in political donations for the senators.

McCain, the only Republican among the five senators under investigation, underwent questioning by his own attorney, John Dowd, who asked, "Who set up or arranged the April 2 meeting?"

McCain replied, "It was my understanding, because it was in Senator DeConcini's office, that it was Senator DeConcini."

His assertion was the latest in a series of defenses mounted by the two Arizona senators that have been damaging to the other. That pattern has led many to characterize the two as turning on one another to save themselves from ethics charges.

"There was no love lost between them before this, and since this has occurred both see the other one as trying to save their own bacon," said Bruce Merrill, director of the media research program at Arizona State University's School of Journalism.

McCain also said he did nothing improper and at all times acted "in keeping with the standards of my office."