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State of Union Iraq, Uranium Links Can Not Be Confirmed

By David E. Sanger and Carl Hulse

the New York Times -- WASHINGTON

The State Department told a congressional committee on Tuesday that seven days after President Bush gave his State of the Union address, in which he charged that Saddam Hussein was attempting to purchase uranium in Africa, U.S. diplomats warned the International Atomic Energy Agency that that the United States could not confirm the reports.

The statement, provided in writing to Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Government Reform, confirms that there were deep misgivings in the government about a portion of the intelligence Bush cited in his January speech.

On Monday the White House said for the first time that the evidence that Iraq sought nuclear fuel in Africa was not credible enough and should not have been included in the his remarks.

Nonetheless, White House officials declined on Tuesday to reveal how the charge made it into Bush’s remarks. And they argued, in further statements that went beyond those issued from Air Force One on Monday, that the uranium issue was just one of many pieces of evidence indicating that Saddam was seeking to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program.

The White House acknowledgment that it had used flawed intelligence came nearly six months after the speech was delivered, and after weeks of arguments here and in Britain over how the invasion of Iraq was justified. On Tuesday it touched off a new series of accusations between Democrats and Republicans over whether the administration had deliberately skewed the evidence, or, as the Democrats argue, withheld information that would have cast doubt on the intelligence.

Democrats seized on the admission by the White House as new justification for a full-scale investigation by the intelligence panels, which are now reviewing the Iraq intelligence material but have shied away from portraying their work as an investigation.