Attorney General Edwin Meese III yesterday denied any impropriety in failing to disclose the details of his "limited blind partnership" with a former official of the Wedtech Corp. or in not disqualifying himself from the Wedtech case until he discovered that his partner was one of those under investigation.

In the first detailed public questioning he has faced on the Wedtech scandal since he came under investigation, Meese said he initially heard about the Bronx-based defense contractor in 1981 when he received the first of about a dozen memos about the company's difficulties in getting a $32 million, no-bid Army engine contract.

The memos, written by San Francisco lawyer E. Bob Wallach, a longtime friend of Meese's whom Wedtech had hired, usually went to his house as well as his White House office. Meese was White House counselor then.

"The idea was to be sure I did get to see them by one route or the other," Meese said during more than two hours of questioning by a Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee headed by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

Meese acknowledged taking steps to see that Wedtech got "a fair hearing," which in turn led to its getting the contract. He also said that he knew the businessman he enlisted in 1985 as an investment partner, W. Franklyn Chinn, had been asked by Wallach around the same time "to help out with Wedtech."

But Meese defended the relationship with Chinn as an appropriate device to make sure "that I would have neither knowledge nor control over how or where" his and his wife's money was being invested.

The attorney general also declared that he saw nothing wrong with his failure to disqualify himself from all federal investigations of Wedtech until last April when he found out that Chinn, who became a Wedtech director in mid-1985, had become a subject of the inquiry.

"There was no indication that Financial Management International {Chinn's investment company} or Mr. Chinn was involved in that investigation" before April, Meese said. He said he spoke with Chinn six to 12 times over the past two years, but never about Wedtech.

Levin pointed out that "at least you knew your general partner {Chinn} had some connection with Wedtech and you knew your department was investigating Wedtech" in 1986. "Why did you wait so long?" Levin asked.

"I didn't," Meese replied. "As soon as I learned that anyone I knew was involved in the investigation, I recused myself . . . . It did not create an appearance problem."

Meese has come under investigation by independent counsel James C. McKay as well as Levin's subcommittee, at least partly because of his failure to disqualify himself sooner. Wallach, who introduced Chinn to Meese as well as to Wedtech, has also come under scrutiny.

The sparring between Meese and Levin continued through the afternoon, interspersed with defenses of Meese by Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.). Levin accused Meese of misleading government ethics officials about his partnership with Chinn, ignoring the clear mandates of federal ethics laws about the need to have disclosed the investments made on his behalf, and of appearances of impropriety in his handling of the Wedtech scandal.

Meese, in turn, denied any lapses, ethical or legal, and as soon as the hearing was concluded, accused Levin of having used the hearing "for a partisan political attack."

"It was obvious that he had no substance whatsoever," Meese told reporters.

Earlier in the day, David H. Martin, head of the Office of Government Ethics, told the subcommittee that Meese was required by law to have listed the investments Chinn made for him because their partnership was not a "qualified blind trust" approved in advance by Martin's office.

Martin said Meese should have made his holdings public last year when he filed his annual financial disclosure report for 1985. He said a management analyst in his office did not catch the omission last fall when Meese's report was filed.

"He failed to raise questions that I think he should have," Martin said. "I'll take responsibility for that . . . . It did not become a red flag to me until April of this year when I received calls either from reporters or others in government."

Last week, Martin said, he received a call from Associate Attorney General Stephen S. Trott, who was reviewing Meese's disclosure report for 1986.

"I expressed to Mr. Trott in the strongest words I know how that there should be a disclosure of the holdings," Martin said. "He {Trott} said, 'We're going to do this right now,' and I said, 'Good.' "

Meese disclosed his holdings under the Chinn partnership for the first time Monday, reporting an 81 percent increase in his initial investment of some $50,000 over a two-year period before he dissolved the partnership June 30. "None of the partnership investments involved in any way the Wedtech Corp.," Meese emphasized.

Martin said even Monday's disclosures were inadequate in that they failed to show the total amounts of stock bought and sold and they described the arrangement as a limited partnership in Financial Management International rather than by its correct name, Meese Partners. Had it been listed as "Meese Partners" on last year's report, Martin said, that "would have triggered an automatic inquiry" by his office because the title suggests "a more private-looking investment vehicle."

He said his staff regarded Financial Management International as a kind of investment fund with a lot of participants, "some kind of pooled arrangement like a mutual fund" whose holdings could be easily ascertained.

Meese, however, asserted that the law was far from clear and said that Martin, by his silence, led him to believe his disclosure was adequate. Asked about another document, a May 24, 1985, "recusal policy" memo with a list of his holdings, Meese said mention of the Chinn partnership, which was entered into on May 23, 1985, was "inadvertently omitted."