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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 June, 2003, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Analysis: 'Potential WMD blow' for Bush

By Justin Webb
BBC correspondent in Washington

A UN weapon inspector at al-Amer factory in Ramadi province, Iraq, before the war
Warner believes weapons will be found

A full-scale Congressional inquiry has been ordered on the use and possible abuse of intelligence information on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The inquiry - being conducted by the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence Committees - is expected to compare comments made by the administration in the run-up to war with what it was given in terms of intelligence briefing.

Senator John Warner, head of the armed services committee, says he has had assurances that the CIA will provide all the information it gave to the administration.

The two committees investigating are being cautious about whether or not there was a deliberate attempt to exaggerate intelligence material.

They are saying it looks as if something might have gone wrong but are not saying any more than that.

Senator Warner says he personally believes weapons of mass destruction will be found and the issue will go away.

But he accepts it is such a grave issue - at the heart of America's ability to communicate to its allies and be believed in future - that it is something worthy of investigation.

Powerful

There has not been much public interest among Americans over the issue as yet, but that is likely to change.

George W Bush
The inquiry outcome could be damaging to President Bush

Once senior people start to appear in front of these committees - and invitations could potentially be sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among others - there is likely to be more interest.

Some of these hearings will be held in public and televised.

There will be a lot of interest in seeing the administration, really for the first time, having to defend itself in public against the charge that it misused information and, in the extreme, made things up.

Congressional committees are extremely powerful - much more so than their UK parliamentary equivalents.

And, if they find evidence of wrongdoing, it could mightily embarrass the administration.

It would be a huge blow for President Bush and potentially politically crippling.

These senators are extremely powerful and if they are persuaded there is a case to answer, then the administration is going to have to take notice.





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