| White House press secretary Ari Fleischer smiles after saying “goodbye” to senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who has covered every US President since John F. Kennedy, during a farewell party for Fleischer’s final day as spokesman. (AFP)
Washington, July 14 (Reuters): The White House today dismissed as a “bunch of bull” charges that President George W. Bush used disputed intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq and said there was no need to delve further into the matter, which Democrats want investigated.
“As far as the President’s concerned, he’s moved on. ... I think the bottom has been gotten to,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said of a disputed statement in the President’s state of the union address that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Africa for its alleged nuclear weapons programme.
“This revisionist notion that somehow this is now the core of why we went to war, a central issue in why we went to war, a fundamental underpinning of the President’s decisions, is a bunch of bull,” Fleischer added.
The White House acknowledged last week that the accusation should not have been in the speech. Bush met face-to-face with CIA director George Tenet for the first time since the political firestorm erupted over the statement, which Bush attributed to the British even though US intelligence was unable to confirm it.
Tenet took responsibility for the CIA’s approval of the speech which contained the uranium claim, but did not himself read the text of the state of the union prior to its delivery before a joint session of Congress.
White House officials insist that the British intelligence was not inaccurate, just unproven by the US. “No one can accurately tell you that it was wrong. That is not known,” Fleischer said. “The President said that Iraq was seeking uranium in Africa. That still may be absolute fact.”
Bush said over the weekend that he had confidence in Tenet.
But the controversy threatened to further erode public support for the US-led occupation of Iraq and create more difficulty at home for US ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair.