President Bush yesterday said he supports the Kuwaiti resistance movement and its "patriots" who "feel that their country has been pillaged and aggressed against," but he declined to say whether the United States is lending covert support to the guerrilla fighters who have used car bombs and nighttime raids to harass Iraqi forces in Kuwait.

Administration officials said yesterday, however, that the Central Intelligence Agency, some special forces units and other unspecified U.S. agencies were "doing everything they can" to support the resistance movement, including providing intelligence to them on Iraqi troop deployments and targets and provisioning them with special weapons, maps and other materials.

One military official said there was a report on the Kuwaiti resistance movement's activities classified at a level above top secret, which is consistent with classification rules for U.S. covert assistance programs that involve the CIA and U.S. special forces.

The official described the Kuwaiti resistance as "minimal" but said it nevertheless had effectively become a "thorn in the side" of the Iraqi occupation forces in Kuwait.

A Kuwaiti official who asked not to be identified said the exile government will not discuss specifics of the resistance or its support in order to protect the fighters. However, the official said the resistance is directed both inside occupied Kuwait and from bases outside, presumably in Saudi Arabia.

"What they're doing is everything they can to demoralize Iraqi troops," the official said. "They are trying to make their lives as miserable as possible. We've heard about car bombs and even rocket attacks and sniping."

NBC News, which first reported the U.S. involvement with the resistance, said the CIA was providing maps, special weapons and target-selection advice to the guerrillas. It also said U.S. Green Beret forces were offering advice but not participating in any paramilitary activity.

Some administration officials suggested that U.S. involvement in the Saudi and Kuwaiti-led paramilitary activity might further endanger Saudi Arabia's defensive posture against the Iraqi occupation army in Kuwait. But other officials and some knowledgeable sources who have held discussions with Arab leaders in the Persian Gulf said there is a mounting determination by those leaders to not only drive Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, but to ultimately drive him from power.

A White House official said yesterday of the Kuwaiti resistance, "It's a real thing, and there are some professional people involved. They've got guts and they're mad."

This official added, "We don't know some of the details, but there is no question they are undertaking action {in occupied Kuwait} and they have some resources."

Asked whether the United States was assisting the effort, the official said, "I won't discuss that."

Bush, asked during a news conference about the NBC report that U.S. Special Forces troops, or Green Berets, were assisting the Kuwaiti fighters, said, "One, I wouldn't comment on it, two, but in a broad way I support the Kuwaiti underground. I support anybody that can add a hand in restoring legitimacy there to Kuwait and to getting the Iraqis out of Kuwait."

Pressed for details about possible cross-border raids by these paramilitary forces, Bush replied, "It's just too hypothetical. I've given you the principle. If there were some quiet support, which I wouldn't ever confirm or deny because we never comment on those matters, I would simply leave it out there. I'd be supportive of anybody that wants to try to fulfill the ambitions -- the statements that the world has made through the United Nations."

One member of the Kuwaiti resistance said this week that the situation in Kuwait remains tense but that resistance fighters are continuing to conduct operations.

In one operation, resistance fighters placed a large car-bomb at a traffic circle near the Al-Adan Hospital in Kuwait City. This traffic circle has become a meeting place for Iraqi families who traveled to Kuwait to visit relatives serving with the Iraqi military. The bomb's explosion produced 80 to 100 casualties, the source said.

The source also reported that the Iraqis have been trying to crack down on the resistance this week. They now have names and photos of Kuwaitis they want to pick up at the checkpoints. To operate the growing security dragnet in Kuwait City, more members of the ruling Iraqi Baath Party are arriving in town.

Iraqi soldiers also have been going house to house this week, asking residents if they are hiding any guns or Westerners, the source said. He said there were also reports of Iraqi soldiers entering empty houses and apartments and looting them of belongings.

One sign of Iraq's effort to tighten its grip on Kuwait, the resistance source said, is that the Iraqi authorities have asked Kuwaiti motorists to go to Basra, in southern Iraq, to exchange their Kuwaiti license plates for Iraqi tags.

Congressional sources said yesterday that they knew of no presidential "finding" that had been sent to the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees. Such a finding, stating the reasons the assistance is in the interest of U.S. national security, is normally required for any covert action unless the president defers it and informally keeps key committee chairmen and vice chairmen informed about the operation.