Reagan administration officials say Vice President George Bush was told in December 1985 about charges that Panamanian leader Gen. Manuel Noriega was involved in drug trafficking, The New York Times reported.

Bush has said he knew of no clear evidence that Noriega was involved in drugs until February, when Noriega was indicted on drug trafficking charges in Florida.The Times, citing officials it did not name, said Edward Everett Briggs, the U.S. ambassador to Panama, told Bush in a Dec. 16, 1985, meeting about cables sent to the State Department recounting allegations of Noriega's involvement with drugs.

Bush has said he never saw or heard of the cables. On Thursday, he was asked whether he had ever been told of reports of Noriega's drug ties before the indictment, Bush said, "Not that I was ever aware of."

The Times said a memorandum from Bush aides to the vice president before his meeting with Briggs said the meeting was to "discuss U.S. relations with Panama and narcotics matters."

By December 1985, other senior officials were concerned about Noriega's activities, the newspaper said. Vice Adm. John Poindexter, then the national security adviser, went to Panama six days before the Bush-Briggs meeting and warned Noriega about official drug-related corruption, the Times said.