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Dems Invite Richardson to Brief Senate

Senate Democrats said Tuesday they are dissatisfied with the information the Bush administration is giving them on North Korea and Iraq.

"Unfortunately, the administration has been increasingly unable or unwilling to consult Congress and provide us with the information we need to exercise our responsibilities," Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said in a statement.

Daschle said he had invited New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who met last week with two North Korean envoys, to meet with both Democrats and Republicans in a private briefing Wednesday. Richardson's office in Albuquerque said he was unable to attend because of scheduling problems.

The office said Richardson, a Democrat, might come later.

Lawmakers have been increasingly critical about the cooperation they are receiving from the Bush administration on Iraq and North Korea. Last week, Daschle and two other Democratic senators sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, requesting a briefing on North Korea.

"So far, we have heard nothing," Daschle said.

Republican senators also expressed concerns in a closed-door meeting last week with White House chief of staff Andrew Card. Some news reports described it as a large confrontation, but Sen. Pat Roberts, incoming chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said it was routine.

"This was not a controversial meeting. It was not a complaint session," said Roberts, R-Kan.

The issue of cooperation had been raised by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., the incoming Armed Services Committee chairman. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Warner declined to discuss his comments at the meeting. He said he believes he and other committee members have been kept well-informed, but "there's always room for improvement."

"I just think the more informed the Congress can be, the stronger the support that can be forthcoming from Congress," he said.

There was no immediate comment from the White House.

Democrats have criticized the White House for playing down the growing tensions with North Korea, which has threatened to revive a nuclear weapons program, withdrawn from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and threatened to resume long-range missile tests.

Administration officials have called for a diplomatic solution, while rejecting negotiations. On Tuesday, Bush said he may propose substantial economic benefits for North Korea if that country agrees to dismantle its nuclear weapons facilities.

Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador, met with members of North Korea's U.N. delegation for three days at North Korea's request. Richardson was not representing the Bush administration, but was in contact with State Department officials.

Richardson said he believed despite North Korea's tough rhetoric, it was interested in dialogue with the United States.