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Bush Looks Forward to Rice Testimony on 9/11 Terror Attacks - 2004-04-05

President Bush says he is looking forward to his National Security Advisor testifying Thursday before a commission investigating the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Condoleezza Rice is expected to refute allegations by a former counter-terrorism chief that the Bush Administration did not pay enough attention to terrorist threats before September 11th.

The National Security Advisor has been at the center of political charges over who is to blame for the attacks. President Bush had long resisted calls to have Ms. Rice publicly answer those questions before the commission. But last week he gave in to bipartisan Congressional pressure and agreed to allow her to testify under oath.

Now that he has, Mr. Bush says he is looking forward to that testimony to set the record straight.

"She will be great," he said. "She is a very smart, capable person who knows exactly what took place and will lay out the facts. And that is what the commission's job is meant to do and that is what the American people want to see. I am looking forward to people hearing her.

Speaking to reporters in North Carolina, Mr. Bush also said he is looking forward to meeting privately with the entire September 11th commission alongside Vice President Dick Cheney.

Some of the Administration's Democratic rivals say before the attacks, the president was focused too much on state-sponsors of terrorism and not enough on terrorist groups, including al-Qaida.

President Bush says his administration took all threats seriously and would have acted to prevent the September 11th attacks if it could have. He said, "Had we had the information that was necessary to stop an attack, I would have stopped the attack. And I am convinced any other government would have too. Make no mistake about it. If we had known that the enemy was going to fly airplanes into our buildings, we would have done everything in our power to stop it."

After the September 11 attacks, President Bush says the stakes changed for the United States, and it took him very little time to decide to go to war against al Qaida and its allies in the Taleban leadership in Afghanistan.

National Security is central to the president's drive for re-election. It is one of the areas in which public opinion polls show him leading Democratic challenger John Kerry.