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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 September, 2003, 07:46 GMT 08:46 UK
Inquiry call over US agent leak
Iraqi al-Samoud missiles
No evidence of weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq
Prominent members of the opposition Democratic Party in the United States are calling for an independent investigation into new allegations surrounding the case for war in Iraq.

Two White House officials are said to have illegally disclosed to journalists that Valerie Plame, the wife of former diplomat Joseph Wilson, was an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.

It is alleged that this was an act of revenge because Mr Wilson had accused the Bush administration of exaggerating the case for war against Saddam Hussein.

BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb says the president's opponents believe this affair could do real damage to the reputation of the Bush White House.

Democratic presidential hopefuls Howard Dean and Wesley Clark said a special investigator should be appointed.

This administration has played politics with national security for a long time, but this is going too far
Wesley Clark
Presidential hopeful

Although the Department of Justice is looking into the matter, some have expressed concerns that it could come under political pressure.

Mr Clark said an independent commission was needed.

"This administration has played politics with national security for a long time, but this is going too far," he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Dean called for a thorough investigation free from political pressure, suggesting it be carried out by the independent Department of Justice inspector general.

'Appropriate'

The White House has said it will co-operate with the Department of Justice by handing over telephone records and other information on request.

It has denied allegations linking Mr Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, to the claim.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said there were no plans to appoint a special investigator.

"At this point, I think the Department of Justice would be the appropriate one to look into a matter like this," he told reporters.

"There are a lot of career professionals at the Department of Justice that address matters like this."

Uranium claim

Before the war in Iraq, Mr Wilson was sent by the CIA to the West African state of Niger in order to investigate claims that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear material there.

His report concluded that there was no evidence for the claims.

Despite this, Mr Bush referred to them in his State of the Union address in January.

In a subsequent article in the New York Times, Mr Wilson questioned why his report had been ignored, forcing the White House to admit it had been a mistake to include the claim in the address.

The fact that Mr Wilson's wife worked for the CIA was published by a columnist, Robert Novak, shortly after Mr Wilson's article appeared. He has refused to divulge his source.

The Washington Post has reported an allegation that White House officials blew the cover of Mr Wilson's wife in order to discredit him by suggesting he had been given the Niger mission only at his wife's urging. A leak of classified information is a federal crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Matt Frei
"It's a criminal offence to leak an agent's name - so who did it?"



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: CIA leak row
30 Sep 03  |  Americas
CIA 'questioned UK uranium claim'
31 Jul 03  |  Politics
Pressure builds on Bush
29 Sep 03  |  Americas
Q&A: The Niger link
15 Jul 03  |  Americas
Aide takes blame for uranium claim
22 Jul 03  |  Americas
Bush backs CIA chief
12 Jul 03  |  Americas


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