The House urged the Bush administration yesterday to drop the secrecy surrounding the CIA's biggest covert aid programs, but rejected an effort to cut off funds earmarked for Jonas Savimbi's rebels in Angola.

In a follow-up vote, however, members agreed to suspend the lethal aid Savimbi is getting on the condition that Angola's Soviet-backed government agrees to a cease-fire and proposes a "reasonable timetable" for free and fair elections in the war-torn country.

Soviet military aid to the regime in Luanda would also have to stop before the flow of U.S. weapons could be suspended.

Opponents denounced the complicated suspension plan -- drawn up by Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) and embellished on the floor -- as virtually incomprehensible. Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), referring to a popular puzzle, called it "a maze . . . {a} Rubik's cube of foreign policy." But the House approved it on a vote of 213 to 200.

Using a parliamentary tactic, opponents led by Hyde won a second vote and almost defeated the amendment. The amendment survived this time by one vote, 207 to 206, when Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) stepped in to break the tie.

Solarz described the suspension plan as a demand for "fundamental change -- from a policy of supporting war to a policy of supporting a concerted search for peace."

Covert CIA support to Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola totals about $60 million a year, according to informed sources, with slightly less than half of that in lethal aid.

The action preserving it came after lengthy debate on a proposal by Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Calif.) to prohibit all covert aid for Savimbi's forces and permit a resumption of the support only if President Bush openly requests it and Congress publicly approves it. This move was rejected, 246 to 175.

The unusual debate came as the House took up a 1991 authorization bill containing about $29 billion for the U.S. intelligence community.

More than 85 percent of the money will go to military intelligence agencies, but the measure also includes $3.5 billion for the Central Intelligence Agency. More than $500 million of that is designated for covert action, according to informed sources.

The budget numbers are classified and only one, the widely published figure of $60 million for UNITA, was mentioned on the House floor. The chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Calif.), and other members expressed increasing dissatisfaction with the fact that they cannot freely debate covert action programs that are openly discussed in the press and sometimes by the president.

Beilenson said this puts lawmakers "in a terrible bind," making them "the only ones who cannot discuss {the covert actions} publicly."

Sources said a classified section of the authorization bill exhorts the administration to abandon the practice of keeping covert the military aid programs to rebel forces in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Angola.

Alluding to these programs on the floor, Beilenson said that if they could not win support in open debate, they probably were "policies the government should not be pursuing." He said he thinks the administration is making a serious effort to wind them all down.

The House approved the authorization bill after turning down a proposal by Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to require prior approval by the House and Senate intelligence committees of any covert action except in emergency situations.

She said the proposal would "restrain the kind of abuse of executive branch power that was revealed during the Iran-contra scandal," but the House voted it down, 341 to 70.