WASHINGTON -- The Senate's top Democrat has urged the Clinton administration to proceed cautiously with its proposal for a multibillion-dollar national missile defense system.

Sen. Tom Daschle, in an interview with CNN being broadcast today, said Washington had to be certain of the reliability of such a system and needed to consider international concerns about sparking a new arms race."We've got to be able to answer a lot more questions about this prior to the time we commit the resources," Daschle said, according to a transcript released in advance of the interview.

"Will it work, first of all? What effect will it have on our allies? Can it be protected? Who is going to answer those questions?"

President Clinton has pledged to decide later this year whether to deploy the $60 billion system, which would aim to protect the United States against long-range missiles fired by what it considers "rogue states" like North Korea and Iraq.

However, a growing number of Democrats are urging Clinton to leave to his successor the decision on whether to build and deploy the system. Washington's European allies have said a unilateral U.S. anti-missile system could lead to a renewed arms race. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his warning that a U.S. missile shield could threaten disarmament pacts.

"I think that we've got to be concerned about triggering an arms race," Daschle said. "I think it's just about all of our European allies (who have expressed worries). Everyone in NATO has said exactly the same thing."

Building the U.S. missile shield would require modifying the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia. Moscow, however, says it is opposed to any amendment to the ABM treaty and has proposed a joint NATO-European missile defense system.