The White House was irritated last month when Doug Wead released portions of his recorded conversations with Bush from 1998 to 2000, when Bush was governor of Texas and planning his White House run.

Wead was an old friend who had worked in the White House of Bush's father, and many of the conversations dealt with issues of religion and politics. Wead had quoted from the tapes in a recent book on presidential childhoods and said he had recorded them out of historic interest.

The conversations also included talk of the use of marijuana. "I wouldn't answer the marijuana question. You know why? Because I don't want some little kid doing what I tried," Bush says on one tape.

Wead had a change of heart about the tapes after they received wide publicity and the White House made clear its displeasure. He said last week he intended to return the tapes to the president.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said on Tuesday the tapes were in the hands of the president's "private counsel".

"It's a matter we consider closed," he said.