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Bush Stresses Continued Faith in US Intelligence, Despite Failure to Find Iraq Weapons - 2004-01-27

President Bush says he still has faith in the U.S. intelligence community, even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

Mr. Bush said he remains convinced the decision to invade Iraq was sound.

"Saddam Hussein was a gathering threat to America and others," he said. "That is what we know."

But there has been no sign of any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, despite the president's assertion that Saddam Hussein had hidden large stockpiles in flagrant violation of U.N. sanctions.

David Kay, who stepped down last week as head of the U.S. inspection team, has said in a series of interviews that he thinks there were no hidden stockpiles in Iraq when the invasion occurred.

Mr. Kay suggested many people were misled by faulty intelligence gathered before the war, including himself. He said it is the intelligence community that is to blame.

But President Bush told reporters he wants all the facts in hand before drawing any conclusions, and noted that even David Kay has stressed that the inspection process in Iraq should continue.

"I think it is very important for us to let the Iraq survey group do its work so we can find out the facts and compare the facts to what was thought," said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush spoke during a brief question and answer session at the start of talks with the president of Poland, a major U.S. ally in Iraq. Several times, he was asked about the likelihood weapons of mass destruction would ever be found. He never answered directly, focusing instead on the outcome of his decision to launch military action.

"There is no doubt in my mind the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein," said Mr. Bush. "America is more secure. The world is safer. And the people of Iraq are free."

They were the president's first comment on David Kay's assertions about the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Mr. Kay was replaced last Friday by Charles Duelfer, who served seven years as the number-two U.N. weapons inspector.