WASHINGTON – Underpinning the U.S. review of Iraq's 12,000-page arms declaration, "there's skepticism and there's fear" about Saddam Hussein's nuclear ambitions, President Bush's spokesman said Monday.
White House press secretary Ari Fleischer also said the United States had security concerns about sharing its own intelligence with United Nations inspectors trying to verify — or invalidate — Saddam's insistence that his regime has no weapons of mass destruction.
"We're going to continue to work with the inspectors to help to get them the information so they can do their job. ... Of course, at the same time, we want to make sure that sources and methods are not compromised in any information that could be conveyed to the inspectors," Fleischer said.
In an interview, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham said he didn't believe the United States had provided much information to the inspectors.
"I don't know why we're being reticent. It may be that we feel that if we make too much of our intelligence information available early, it will give Saddam Hussein some clues to how we got that information which he then could use to better hide, disguise what he has," said Graham, D-Fla.
If the administration has evidence, "They should provide such evidence to the United Nations, to the American people," Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, said at a Capitol Hill news conference of anti-war House Democrats.
Fleischer withheld judgment on the arms declaration that Iraq turned over to the United Nations Security Council on Saturday. The United States wants to study the material "thoroughly, completely and fully and thoughtfully," Fleischer said.
U.S. officials were still helping the Security Council president copy and distribute the material by Monday afternoon, he added.
Over the weekend, a military adviser to Saddam suggested that Iraq was close to building an atomic bomb a decade or so ago — a "wistful" admission of how much Iraq "yearned to get nuclear weapons," as Fleischer described it, and proof that the United States is right to be skeptical of Iraqi denials now.
Saddam, the Iraqi president, insists his regime has no programs for developing banned nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Bush says Saddam is lying.
Under a U.N. Security Council resolution unanimously approved last month, international weapons inspectors are in Iraq trying to validate those claims along with the information submitted on Saturday.
"On the broader picture yes, there's skepticism and there's fear about Iraqi intentions and abilities," Fleischer said.
On the narrower question of determining the validity of Iraq's declaration to the U.N. Security Council, "that process deserves respect and it deserves thoughtful judgment and we will not rush to it," Fleischer said.
Kucinich was one of seven Democrats at Monday's news conference to express worries that the Bush administration is intent on going to war without giving the inspections a chance to work.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, protested that the administration still has "not given the American people the proof that there is a necessary war" and said that war would be "a devastating blow to America's economy."