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'Fixed' facts?

From Brian Todd

Wolf Blitzer Reports
Tony Blair
Great Britain

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A secret memo made public just before this month's elections in Britain, is leading to more pointed questions about the rationale for the Iraq war.

The memo, leaked to the Times of London newspaper, details the minutes of a meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his security team in July 2002 -- before the Bush administration began making its public case for war against Saddam Hussein.

The notes refer to a British official's consultations in Washington that summer:

"Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy."

Later, the minutes say, "...The case was thin."

Contacted by CNN, an official in Blair's office would not confirm the contents of the notes.

CNN asked White House press secretary Scott McClellan for his reaction.

"I don't know about the specific memo," McClellan said. "I've seen the reports, and I can tell you they are flat out wrong. The president of the United States in a very public way reached out to people across the world, went to the United Nations and tried to resolve this in a diplomatic manner."

The White House has not responded to a letter sent earlier this month from John Conyers, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, calling for the Bush administration to explain the British report.

"The president has to answer this. I don't think we can laugh at the London Times and British intelligence. We need to know," Conyers said.

But the administration gets critical backing from Republican Sen. John McCain.

"I do not believe that the Bush administration decided that they would set up a scenario that gave us the rationale for going into Iraq," McCain said.

McCain was part of a presidential commission that concluded prewar intelligence on Saddam's weapons was not manipulated, but was simply wrong.

The British government does not dispute the reported contents of the memo.

But an official with Blair's office encouraged us to look at two matters of public record that took place after the meeting:

That the British government enthusiastically pursued diplomatic options before the war and that Britain's own independent commission found that Blair had acted on good faith with the intelligence he had.

Intelligence experts caution that estimates of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs were coming from several sources at that time and were being interpreted in different ways.

And they say this memo may simply reflect one British official's own interpretations of what he saw in Washington that summer.

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