A plan to redraw South Florida congressional districts in the wake of a lawsuit claiming the boundaries were designed to safeguard minority seats fell apart when Gov. Jeb Bush (R) dropped his support.

Critics said the plan would have reduced election chances for blacks and Hispanics.

"I've been told there was a basis of agreement," Bush said today. "And if there's not, we'll just have to go back to the drawing board."

The state attorney general's office said it will now concentrate on fighting the lawsuit.

On Monday, the state said it had reached a deal with Tom Fouts, whose lawsuit claims the drawing of the districts along racial and ethnic lines was unconstitutional. Fouts, who is white, earlier lost a state Senate race to a black incumbent.

Under the terms of the settlement, Fouts was to drop his challenge and the state was to redraw the districts, subject to approval by a panel of federal judges.

The plan would have changed the boundaries and reduced the percentage of minority voters in districts now held by two black Democrats--Alcee L. Hastings and Carrie P. Meek--and a Hispanic Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, along with changes to five neighboring districts.

News of the settlement set off a firestorm, with Democrats accusing Republicans of cutting a back-room deal to make it harder for blacks to get elected.

But the governor and the attorney general were told there was an agreement among the parties involved, said Deputy Attorney General Richard Doran.

"We and our clients were misled," wrote Gerald Curington, an assistant deputy attorney general.

Lawyer David Paul Horan, who represents Fouts, said no one was misled about who agreed to the proposal. He said it would be naive to believe that Meek, Hastings or organizations such as the NAACP would accept the settlement without complaint.

"Anybody that's got a lick of sense would never believe that people who were running in racially gerrymandered districts would be totally happy with not running in illegally racially gerrymandered districts," Horan said.