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Wednesday, July 30

Bush accepts blame for faulty Iraq intelligence in State of the Union address

By Laurence McQuillan | USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — President Bush took responsibility Wednesday for using faulty intelligence about Iraq’s quest for nuclear arms to justify going to war. But he said his claim that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons will prove true.

Bush based much of his argument for going to war with Saddam Hussein on the threat posed by Iraq’s development of weapons of mass destruction, in violation of terms that ended the 1991 gulf war. Since Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1, no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons have been found.

"I take personal responsibility for everything I say," Bush told reporters during his first solo news conference since March, including claiming during his State of the Union address in January that Iraqi agents tried to buy uranium in the West African nation of Niger.

It was the first time Bush took responsibility for raising the issue in his address. The CIA challenged the claim, which came from British intelligence, before the speech. The White House admitted this month the evidence came from bogus documents.

Bush expressed full confidence in his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, who has been criticized for allowing the nuclear claim to be included in his speech. He called her an "honest, fabulous person" and added, "America is lucky to have her service. Period."

He predicted that evidence of chemical and biological weapons programs eventually will be found in Iraq. "It’s going to take time for us to gather the evidence and analyze the mounds of evidence," he said.

Bush said he would like to produce proof exposing Saddam’s quest for arms: "In my line of work, it’s always best to produce results."

Bush said the deaths of Saddam’s sons, Odai and Qusai, shows that the "despicable henchmen" of the old Iraqi regime would not return. He said progress was being made in tracking down Saddam but refused to predict how long the hunt will last.