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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 04:26 GMT 05:26 UK
Tenet quizzed over Iraq intelligence
CIA director George Tenet
Tenet: "It was an uplifting experience"
US Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet has again accepted full responsibility for unsubstantiated allegations about Iraq's weapons programme being included in a key speech by the US president.

"The director was very contrite. He was very candid. He was very forthcoming. And he accepted full responsibility," said Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a closed-door hearing.

It was the first time Mr Tenet faced questions since he took the blame for the inclusion of US President George W Bush's controversial claim in his State of the Union speech that Iraq was trying to buy uranium in Africa.

The White House later said the allegations about uranium in the speech were questionable, and some documents used to assert the claim were found to be forged.

During the four-and-a-half-hour hearing, Republicans pressed the CIA director on why the suspect intelligence was still included in the president's speech in January.

Mr Roberts said it was clear "there were mistakes made up and down the chain".

He said the hearing reaffirmed his belief that "the handling of this was sloppy".

Democrats have blamed the White House and questioned whether someone there had knowingly included the dubious intelligence to hype Mr Bush's case for war against Iraq.

They said Mr Tenet had named White House officials who had sought to include the information in the speech, but the Democrats declined to identify them because of the confidentiality of the proceedings.

After the hearing, Mr Tenet said only: "It was an uplifting experience."

'Accountability'

Asked whether Mr Tenet should resign, Mr Roberts said: "I think he is doing a good job in the war against terrorism. This is one error that he has admitted in terms of his responsibility. But in my personal view I would say no."

The panel's top Democrat, senator John Rockefeller, said it was crucial that there was "accountability" over the affair.

"I think that responsibility has to be taken by a lot more than George Tenet."

Democratic presidential hopeful Senator John Edwards told journalists before the meeting that the US president should not shift the blame for the mistake.

"The responsibility is not the CIA's, it is not anyone else's, it is the president's responsibility," he said.




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