WASHINGTON (AP) _ Federal criminal charges against attorney Clark Clifford and his partner Robert Altman in the BCCI banking scandal were dismissed Tuesday.

Clifford, a former secretary of defense and presidential adviser, and Altman were indicted last July on charges of conspiring to defraud the Federal Reserve Board by concealing BCCI's ownership of First American Bankshares Inc., the Washington area's largest bank holding company.

U.S. District Court Judge Joyce Hens Green agreed to motions by both the Justice Department and attorneys for Clifford and Altman to dismiss the charges without prejudice - meaning they can be revived later.

Laurence Urgenson, the chief Justice Department official in the case, said the dismissal was sought on grounds that a trial of Altman on similar state charges has begun in New York. That trial is expected to last through the summer.

In addition, Clifford, 86, is recovering from quadruple bypass heart surgery last month and it was virtually certain he would be unable to appear in court for the scheduled beginning of the federal trial June 1.

Urgenson had said earlier that reviving the federal charges would depend on the outcome of Altman's trial in New York and Clifford's recovery.

Under the agreement for dropping the federal case, Clifford and Altman said they would not fight any future attempt by the Justice Department to bring broader federal charges under a criminal information - a procedure that doesn't require a grand jury and indictment.

During the 1980s, Clifford and Altman were, respectively, chairman and president of First American. Both also were attorneys for the foreign-owned Bank of Credit and Commerce International.

The worldwide operations of BCCI were shut in 1991 after the bank lost an estimated $10 billion in assets and deposits.

The three-count indictment accused the two of enriching themselves through secret ''sweetheart'' loans and other agreements with BCCI. A similar indictment on state charges in New York also accused them of accepting millions in bribes from BCCI in the form of legal fees, ''sham loans and stock deals.''