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Inside Politics

Woodward: Saudi envoy trying to 'fuzz up' meeting

He says Bandar told him he thought Iraq war was imminent

Journalist Bob Woodward speaks on CNN's "Larry King Live."

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Bob Woodward
George W. Bush
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan's assertions that he did not learn of President Bush's decision to launch war on Iraq before Secretary of State Colin Powell are false, journalist Bob Woodward told CNN on Friday.

"For some reason, Bandar wants to fuzz this up," said Woodward, whose book "Plan of Attack" tells of a meeting in early January 2003 in which Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld briefed Bandar on war plans.

He said Bandar woke him up with a late phone call Thursday night and ended up acknowledging that Woodward's description of the meeting was accurate.

Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, has said Woodward was correct when he said he attended a meeting at the White House on a Saturday -- two days before Powell was told of the decision to go to war.

But Bandar said this week on CNN's "Larry King Live" that Woodward missed an element.

"Both Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld told me before the briefing that the president has not made a decision yet, but here is the plan," Bandar said.

"Not true," Woodward told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "In this meeting you have the secretary of defense saying -- according to the secretary of defense's own words -- 'you can take this to the bank; this is going to happen.' And I interviewed the president, and we spent a long time going over that meeting and the meeting with Colin Powell.

"And the president is the one who said, like to Colin Powell, 'time to get your war uniform on.' That's not a maybe. That's: War is coming. It could not have been clearer. For some reason Bandar wants to fuzz this up.

"Bandar called me last night," he added. "Woke me up -- a quarter of 12. And we went through this. And I said, 'What are you doing?' "

Woodward said Bandar told him that he had officially been told that a decision had not been made, but that the White House had made it clear the decision was in fact made.

"I said, 'Well, the issue here is when you left that meeting did you think the president had decided on war?' Woodward told CNN. "Bandar said 'absolutely.' "

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