Un bel messaggio di critica neanche tanto velata.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal Reserve (news - web sites) Chairman Alan Greenspan (news - web sites) said on Tuesday that uncertainties over a possible war with Iraq posed "formidable barriers" to business spending and made it tough to gauge the U.S. economy's health.

Greenspan's testimony, delivered amid escalating tensions with Iraq and wrangling among lawmakers over Bush administration plans for sweeping tax cuts, included a stern warning about the need to restore budget discipline.

"The heightening of geopolitical tensions has only added to the marked uncertainties that have piled up over the past three years, creating formidable barriers to new investment and thus to a resumption of vigorous expansion of overall economic activity," the Fed chief said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Senate Banking Committee.

He said methods to establish curbs on deficits and on spending need to be "reinstated without delay."

"I am concerned that, should the enforcement mechanisms governing the budget process not be restored, the resulting lack of clear direction and constructive goals would allow the in-built political bias in favor of growing budget deficits to again become entrenched," Greenspan said.

The Fed chief made no direct comment on President Bush (news - web sites)'s proposed $695-billion tax cut package, which has come under fire from opposing Democrats who charge it will bloat the government's budget deficit.

In remarks that emphasized the shadows looming over the economic outlook, Greenspan said policymakers may not get a clear picture of prospects until the Iraqi is resolved.

But he said he and his Fed colleagues lean toward the notion that the economy could revive considerably if relieved of some of the war worries.

"If these uncertainties diminish considerably in the near term, we should be able to tell far better whether we are dealing with a business sector and an economy poised to grow more rapidly -- our more probable expectation -- or one that is still laboring under persisting strains and imbalances that have been misidentified as transitory," Greenspan said.