Democrat Michael Dukakis said Thursday that Reagan administration dealings with Panama strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega were "criminal," while Republican vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle prepared for a new round of questions about his military and personal life.

"For years, while General Noriega of Panama was actively involved in the drug business, we were actively in business with General Noreiga," Dukakis said in Cleveland. "That, my friends, is criminal."He chided President Reagan for refusing to seek the help of Latin and Central American leaders to curb drug trafficking and said if elected he would use more foreign aid to assist those countries in eradicating drug crops and protecting public officials whose lives are endangered by drug cartels.

"How can we ask our kids to say no to drugs here at home when we have an administration that's been in bed with General Noriega?" Dukakis asked.

Quayle scheduled a late afternoon news conference after several days of avoiding reporters' questions about his entry into the National Guard during the height of the Vietnam War and his relationship with a female lobbyist.

Wednesday night, Quayle countered questions about his military record with thrusts against Dukakis' defense policies. He called it "one of the worst false impressions" that Dukakis supported a strong defense.

But Democratic running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, came to Dukakis' defense Thursday. "The simple truth is this: Gov. Dukakis is a veteran, a patriot and an advocate of American strength and steadiness," Bentsen said in remarks prepared for the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Chicago. "He can be trusted as a defender of American security - and as a champion of American values."

Bentsen also bragged of his own record as a World War II bomber pilot in contrast to his GOP rival's stint in the Guard.

"I have been there. And I yield to no person or party in my passion for freedom," he said.

The counterchanges occurred against the backdrop of wrangling over when Dukakis and Vice President George Bush would debate, and polls showing that Bush's post-convention lead was narrowing.