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Democrats Renew Call for Inquiry into White House Use of Intelligence on Iraq

Now that a White House official has accepted blame for discredited pre-war intelligence about Iraq's nuclear ambitions, congressional Democrats are stepping up their calls for an investigation.

A day after Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley took responsibility for the controversy, Democrats say his comments raise more questions than answers.

In an unusual on the record briefing Tuesday, Mr. Hadley took the blame for a statement, discredited by the Central Intelligence Agency, in President Bush's State of the Union address in January that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa. The president had used the statement, in part, to make the case for going to war in Iraq.

Mr. Hadley acknowledged he had received warnings from the CIA about the veracity of the statement.

The admission gave additional ammunition to Democrats, who have been raising questions about whether the White House manipulated intelligence to justify the war.

Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, wants public hearings on the matter. He said the faulty information was also included in a letter to Congress a week before the president delivered his State of the Union address.

"This really has to be clarified," he emphasized. "This is one of the most incredible snafus that I have ever seen in my years here on the Hill relative to the critical life and death decisions of the CIA and the NSC."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle suggested Mr. Bush hold a formal news conference to explain what happened.

"Now might be a good time for the president to hold a press conference simply to answer all of these questions, to clarify the administration position and to clarify the record," he said.

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed such a call, saying Deputy National Security Advisor Hadley accepted responsibility during his meeting with reporters. The spokesman defended the administration's case for going to war in Iraq.

"Nothing that was said changes the underlying case, which was clear and compelling: America is safer because of the action we took," he said. "The Iraqi people are going to realize freedom and democracy."

But Senator Ted Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, says President Bush must be held accountable.

"The buck does not stop with the CIA Director George Tenet, and it does not stop with Deputy National Security Adviser Steven Hadley. The buck stops with the president," he said.

Earlier this month, CIA Director Tenet said he was responsible for not preventing the misleading information from being included in the president's January speech.

Congressional Republicans, who have blamed the CIA for the controversy, were mostly silent on the issue Wednesday.

Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says his panel plans to look into the matter.