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White House: Review of Iraq's Weapons Documents Will be a Long Process - 2002-12-11

U.S. officials are continuing to review Iraq's declaration of its weapons programs. Iraq's Foreign Ministry says Washington is seeking to "manipulate" the document to justify a U.S. attack against Saddam Hussein.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says teams of government translators and intelligence officials are working through Iraq's statement "carefully." He says it is the beginning of a process that will take "a considerable period of time."

"This process will be thoughtful. It will be deliberative. And it will be careful," he stressed. "It will be careful to make certain that we thoroughly and completely understand what it is that Iraq is purporting to declare, as well as what they have failed to declare in this rather large document."

Mr. Fleischer says U.S. officials will take however long they need to review the 12,000-page document to ensure that it is judged in its entirety.

Iraq Tuesday accused Washington of "banditry unparalleled" in U-N history for limiting distribution of the weapons report to the Security Council's five permanent members. The ten non-permanent members will receive edited versions without sensitive information on banned weapons.

Mr. Fleischer calls Baghdad's allegation "ludicrous," saying the way the report is being distributed was a decision made by the United Nations.

"That is a laughable statement," he said. "I think it follows a disturbing pattern where Iraq looks at the combined actions of the world as spoken and expressed and approved by the United Nations and condemns them."

The Bush administration says sensitive information in the weapons report should be shared only with declared nuclear powers to prevent that information from being misused.

Some U.N. members have criticized the distribution of the report, asking how the Security Council can judge if Iraq is lying about its weapons programs unless all of its members have access to the complete declaration.

The Bush administration says it has proof that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. resolutions. If the United Nations does not disarm Iraq, President Bush says he will lead his own coalition to disarm the country by force.