WASHINGTON - Senate Banking Committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato announced that a special Senate committee will begin its inquest into the Whitewater controversy on Tuesday, July 18.

"The American people deserve to know the truth, and we will conduct this investigation in a professional and unbiased manner," the New York Republican said on Thursday.

The House Banking Committee is scheduled to begin its inquiry into the Whitewater affair in August. Bank lobbyists are concerned that the two panels will push issues affecting the industry to the back burner once Whitewater hearings begin.

The Senate hearings will be handled through the Special Committee on Whitewater Development Corp. and Related Matters, established by the Senate in May. Sen. D'Amato chairs that panel.

The first Whitewater sessions will focus on whether administration officials improperly handled documents in the office of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster after his death, Sen. D'Amato said.

The lawmaker promised that the hearings will be "fair, impartial, and thorough."

Sen. D'Amato added that he expects to conduct more hearings over the remainder of the year and into next year, if necessary.

The House Banking Committee will begin Whitewater hearings on Aug. 7.

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