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Sources: White House open to many options on WMD probe

Bush: 'I, too, want to know the facts'

President Bush, Friday.
President Bush said Friday that he wants to compare what was believed about Iraqi weapons before the war with what inspectors found.

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CIA Director George Tenet faces increased pressure over pre-war intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Amid calls for an independent probe into prewar intelligence failures, Vice President Dick Cheney has called key lawmakers to say the administration is open to a range of options, sources tell CNN.

Congressional and administration sources have said that Cheney's calls have also included discussions on how a possible independent inquiry might proceed.

Administration sources stress the talks are preliminary and that no decision has been made on such an inquiry.

"That's definitely the direction we're heading in," said a senior GOP leadership source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

President Bush was twice asked Friday about the possibility of an independent commission, but would say only that he wants to know about discrepancies between what weapons the U.S. thought Iraq had and what post-war inspections have found.

"I, too, want to know the facts," Bush said, adding that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was "a growing danger" and that the world is better now that he has been captured.

"I want to be able to compare what the Iraq Survey Group has found with what we thought was there prior to going into Iraq," he said, referring to the CIA/Pentagon team assigned to hunt for banned weapons.

The Bush administration named Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction as a key reason in its decision to invade Iraq last year.

On Capitol Hill, an influential member of the Senate Intelligence Committee joined the call for an independent investigation into the intelligence used to justify going to war.

Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California, who previously opposed such action, is prepared to support a resolution seeking an independent probe, a spokesman said.

Democrats and others began calling for such an investigation after former top U.S. weapons hunter David Kay reported that Iraq likely had no stockpiles of banned weapons before the war. Kay blamed apparent intelligence failures in his testimony this week before a Senate panel.

Some administration critics have demanded CIA Director George Tenet's resignation. But the administration expresses confidence in Tenet's abilities, and the CIA said Kay's assessment of intelligence failures is premature and may be wrong.

Former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a Republican, said he agreed with the call for "an independent, nonpartisan commission to get at the facts." But he said he opposed calls for Tenet's resignation.

"I think at this point we should not be looking for scapegoats or scalps but rather the facts," Cohen told CNN on Friday.

Support for an independent probe is building among the GOP.

"A lot of Republicans are ready to get on the independent bandwagon," a senior GOP Senate leadership aide said.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona repeated his support for such a review this week, which he first voiced last summer when discrepancies emerged about Bush's 2003 State of the Union assertion that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa. (McCain's earlier statements)

"There has to be an outside commission investigating that, and until that happens most Americans won't be satisfied," McCain said Thursday. "But most importantly we have to have lessons learned so we don't repeat the mistakes of the past."

Republican strategists have noted that many Democrats -- including former President Clinton -- bought into the same intelligence on Saddam's regime before Bush took office.

Clinton said Thursday that ample evidence existed to justify pushing a new round of U.N. inspections at the least.

"At the time of September 11, there were officially unaccounted for stocks of botulin, aflatoxin and ricin, which justified, in my view, the U.S. going back to the U.N. and asking for the U.N. inspections," Clinton said.


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