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Bush: U.S. had 'darn good intelligence' on Iraq

'When I gave the speech, the line was relevant'

From Dana Bash
CNN Washington Bureau

Bush: "Our country made the right decision."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Monday he had "darn good intelligence" on Iraq despite his disputed State of the Union claim that Baghdad sought to purchase uranium from Africa.

"The larger point is and the fundamental question is, 'Did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program?' And the answer is, 'Absolutely,' " Bush told reporters after a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Friday, Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet accepted responsibility for allowing the line to stay in the January 28 State of the Union address, but many Democrats say the White House still has explaining to do. (Full story)

The White House has tried to put the issue behind it, arguing that the allegation was just a small part of the U.S. justification for war.

"This revisionist notion that somehow this is now the core of why we went to war, a central issue of why we went to war, a fundamental underpinning of the president's decisions, is a bunch of bull," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Monday.

Many Democrats are accusing the White House of misleading the American people in the State of the Union address. But Bush said, "When I gave the speech, the line was relevant."

He said, "Our country made the right decision" in taking military action to depose Saddam, and that he is confident evidence of Iraqi efforts to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons will emerge.

"I think the intelligence I get is darn good intelligence, and the speeches I have given were backed by good intelligence," Bush said. "And I am absolutely confident today, like I was when I gave the speeches, that Saddam Hussein developed a program of weapons of mass destruction."

Fleischer said the White House does not intend to find or disclose any more about the uranium allegation, which was attributed to British intelligence.

"The bottom line has been gotten to," he said.

The White House has confirmed intelligence officials successfully excised a line in the president's speech in Cincinnati last October about Iraq seeking nuclear material from Niger. Fleischer sought to explain why that was taken out, while the reference to Africa remained in the State of the Union.

"The reference that the CIA recommended be taken out of the Cincinnati speech was a very specific to the country of Niger and to the quantity of uranium that Iraq sought from Niger. ... The language in the State of the Union says 'sought uranium from Africa,' not just Niger, because there was other reporting from other countries beyond Niger," said Fleischer.

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