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Officials Say White House Will Not Rush to Judgement on Iraqi Weapons Report - 2002-12-09

The White House says it will conduct a thoughtful, thorough review of Iraq's 12,000 page arms declaration and will not rush to judgment. But administration officials leave no doubt that a pattern of Iraqi lies over the years has left them skeptical of Baghdad's intentions.

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer uses words like "careful" and "methodical" when he talks about the American review of the Iraqi declaration. "We want to be very deliberative as we move through and look at this document to determine with the international community what this indicates about Saddam Hussein and his disarmament," he said.

He stressed the United States is not going into the review process with its mind already made up. But he does note that Saddam Hussein has sought to deceive the U.N. and the world in the past about his intentions to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

"The history of Iraq is unquestionably that they lie. They lie to the United States, they lie to the United Nations, they lie to the inspectors," he said. "The question now is what is contained in this voluminous declaration they just submitted. And the answer to that is we don't yet know."

Mr. Fleischer said recently that the Bush administration has solid evidence that Iraq does indeed possess weapons of mass destruction. Now that the arms declaration has been submitted, he was asked by reporters if the United States will be sharing more of that evidence with the U.N. inspectors and the public. He said the Bush administration is helping the inspectors, but acknowledged there are some security concerns involved.

"We want the inspectors to be successful in doing their job. Of course, at the same time we want to make certain that sources and methods (of obtaining information) are not compromised in any information that could be conveyed to the inspectors," he said. "I think that is very well known."

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill there were new calls for the administration to release any evidence it may have regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. . "If the administration has evidence that counters the Iraqi disclosure, they should provide such evidence to the United Nations, to the American people, and to you, in the media. Providing such evidence would be the responsible approach," said Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, speaking on behalf of a group of House Democrats.

Mr. Kucinich went on to say the administration's talk of war is undermining the inspection process in Iraq because it implies the White House is prepared to resort to military action no matter what happens.

President Bush has brushed aside similar allegations in the past. He has said that if Iraq does not disarm peacefully, it will be disarmed by force. But he has also emphasized that he sees the use of force as a last resort.