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Bush Expresses Satisfaction with Information from Intelligence Agencies - 2003-07-14

President Bush says he is getting good information from the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The comments were part of a White House campaign to defuse a controversy that dates back to January and statements made by the president on Iraq.

In his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush said Iraq was seeking to buy uranium in Africa to make nuclear weapons.

The claim was based, in part, on questionable evidence. Critics say the White House used it to bolster its case for military action against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.

President Bush says the CIA looked at the speech before it was delivered and cleared the reference to uranium and Africa. But he says overall, the intelligence agencies do a good job.

"I think the intelligence that I get is darn good intelligence. And the speeches I have given were backed by good intelligence," he said.

Mr. Bush went on to say the allegation was relevant at the time the speech was written. He said then, as now, he remains convinced that under Saddam Hussein, Iraq was trying to build a weapons program that threatened the world.

"The larger point is, and the fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program," he said. "And the answer is, absolutely!"

The president said the United States made the right decision to meet the threat and take military action. He noted teams are on the ground looking for evidence of weapons of mass destruction and predicted proof will be found.

"I firmly believe that when it is all said and done, the people of the United States will realize that Saddam Hussein had a weapons program," he said.

Earlier, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer took strong issue with allegations the president tried to mislead the public about Iraq's nuclear intentions. He called the accusations "absolute total nonsense."

Some leading congressional Democrats are calling for an investigation of all the evidence the White House made public in its effort to win support for military action. But Bush administration officials, from the president on down, say they consider the matter closed and emphasize it is time to move on.