The Bush administration says its policy toward Iraq has not been undercut by a new CIA report saying Iraq would not be likely to launch a terror strike on the United States unless it first came under U.S. attack.
The CIA assessment says the Iraqi leader appears to be drawing a line short of launching terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical or biological weapons.
But, the letter, by CIA Director George Tenet, says Saddam Hussein would be "much less constrained" if faced with a U.S. led attack and might use weapons of mass destruction "to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."
The letter, which emerged during a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, was made public along with testimony from an earlier hearing where a senior U.S. intelligence official said there was a "low" likelihood of Iraq initiating an attack in the foreseeable future.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush agrees with the CIA conclusions and they do not contradict the president's push for pre-emptive action.
Mr. Fleischer says the CIA believes that the likelihood of Saddam Hussein using weapons of mass destruction for blackmail or deterrence "grows as his arsenal builds." Mr. Tenet's letter also contains references to "credible evidence" that terrorists have sought Baghdad's help in acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
The White House spokesman says so-called "guesses" about the likelihood of an Iraqi attack are "best estimates" of what the president calls a "grave and growing danger" from Iraq.
Mr. Fleischer says the only person with sure knowledge of whether Iraq will use weapons of mass destruction is Saddam Hussein.
"The point the president is making on all of this is that it depends on Saddam Hussein's decisions and the trust therefore has to fall to Saddam Hussein not to use what he has," he explained.
The president continued to make his case for pre-emptive action against Iraq Wednesday, telling Hispanic leaders that the United States will deal with Saddam Hussein in a deliberate, calm, logical, and, he said, if need be, forceful way.
"We are a patient nation. He has got a choice to make. His choice is he must do what he said he was going to do," the president said. " He said he wasn't going to have weapons of mass destruction. That's what we expect. We take a man for his word. But if he doesn't disarm and if the United Nations won't act, for the sake of our freedom, we will lead other countries that love freedom as much as we do and disarm him."
Both house of the U.S. Congress are expected to pass a resolution authorizing President Bush to use force in Iraq if he concludes that diplomacy alone is not enough to remove Iraqi threats.