UNITED NATIONS — Iraq rejected on Monday a request for new documents on its program to build weapons of mass destruction, and launched a fresh attack on Richard Butler, chairman of the U.N. commission charged with finding them.
"We don't have any more documents that we believe are related to disarmament at this point," Iraqi Ambassador Nizar Hamdoun said at United Nations headquarters. The Baghdad government sent an 18-page letter to the Security Council to underscore the point.
The letter accused Butler of "jumping hastily to the council to cast doubt on Iraq's cooperation."
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen told reporters at the Pentagon that the United States had enough military strength in the Mideast to launch an attack against Iraq. But no deadlines were set, and the administration's tone stressed a degree of patience that was missing Nov. 14 when bombing was only hours away.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Iraq's compliance was "not a matter of a deadline."
"It's a matter of really coming forward with what is necessary to show that they are cooperating," she said.
State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said U.N. weapons inspectors headed by Butler would study Iraq's latest rejection in detail.
"The dog ate my homework is not an acceptable excuse," he said.
However, he added that it would be necessary to determine the circumstances if documents had been destroyed.
Administration officials indicated that the documents were only one measure of President Saddam Hussein's cooperation.
Important questions include whether Iraq allows U.N. personnel to conduct monitoring and if a team of experts being assembled can hold surprise inspections when it enters the country.
Butler has asked Iraq for a variety of documents, including information about numbers of certain prohibited weapons used during Iraq's eight-year war with Iran, to determine if the arms that remained have been accounted for and destroyed.
Arms inspectors believe that they have a good handle on Iraq's ballistic missiles and chemical weapons, but lack significant data about its biological warfare program.
The latest Iraqi letter, signed by Deputy Prime Minister Tarik Aziz, argued that Butler was making his own "interpretation" that Iraq was not cooperating with the weapons inspectors.
Members of the Security Council also met Monday to consider terms for renewing a program allowing Iraq to sell limited quantities of oil for food and medicine.
Peter Burleigh, the U.S. representative, said Iraq's letter did not demonstrate the degree of cooperation that was desired.
"We're waiting, we are expecting the Iraqis to cooperate. . . . They have said they are going to," he said.
"We are disappointed with these initial responses on the letters. They are clearly insufficient responses," Burleigh said. "On the other hand, there are some activities going on on the ground in Iraq where Iraqi authorities have been cooperating. We'll see."
Times staff writer Robin Wright in Washington contributed to this report.