Bush said on Friday that he wanted “to know the facts" about any intelligence failures about the deposed Iraqi President's supposed weapons programme.

But the issue of an independent commission has blossomed into an election-year problem for the president, with Democrats and Republicans alike supporting the idea.

Former chief weapons inspector David Kay has concluded that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction, which Bush had cited as a rationale for going to war against Iraq.

Bush said he wants to be able to compare the administration's pre-war intelligence with what will be learned by inspectors who are now searching for weapons in Iraq. There is no deadline for those inspectors, the Iraq Survey Group, to complete their work.

"I want the American people to know that I, too, want to know the facts. I want to be able to compare what the Iraq Survey Group has found with what we thought prior to going into Iraq.

"It seems to me that the vice president of the United States therefore influenced the very reports that the president then used to decide to go to war and to ask Congress for permission to go to war."
Howard Dean,
Democratic presidental candidate

"One thing is for certain - one thing we do know from Mr Kay's testimony, as well as from the years of intelligence that we had gathered, is that Saddam Hussein was a danger. He was a growing danger.

"And given the circumstances of September the 11th, this country went to the United Nations and said, 'Saddam Hussein's a danger, let us work together to get him to disarm.'

"He was defiant, he ignored the request of the international community and this country led a coalition to remove him," Bush said after meeting with economists.

Independent commission

Parting company with many of his fellow Republicans, Senator John McCain said on Thursday he wants an independent commission to take a sweeping look at recent intelligence failures.

Some of the Democratic candidates for president said they support an independent commission.

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean criticised Vice President Dick Cheney for berating CIA operatives because he did not like their intelligence reports.

"It seems to me that the vice president of the United States therefore influenced the very reports that the president then used to decide to go to war and to ask Congress for permission to go to war," Dean said during a campaign debate on Thursday night.

John Edwards said his support for the Iraq war was based on years of intelligence briefings and evidence of Saddam's atrocities against his own people. He supports an independent commission "that will have credibility and that the American people will trust, about why there is this discrepancy about what we were told and what's actually been found there."

Senator John Kerry said whether Cheney berated CIA officials to shape the intelligence that he wanted is "a very legitimate question. ... There's an enormous question about the exaggeration by this administration."