Bush told reporters in Uganda that he had given a speech “that was cleared by intelligence services. It was a speech that detailed to the American people the dangers posed by the Saddam Hussein regime”.
Bush was referring to parts of his address that referred to Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from Niger.
“My government took the appropriate response to the dangers, and as a result the world is more secure and more peaceful,” he said.
Bush’s comments came shortly after Rice, who is travelling with him on a five-day-trip to Africa, gave similar statements.
Rice said that the CIA had cleared the speech in its entirety.
“If the CIA, director of central intelligence, had said ‘take this out of the speech’, then it would have been done,” Rice told reporters en route to Uganda with Bush.
Her comments came a day after CBS television network said the White House had ignored a request by the CIA to remove the accusation from Bush’s address.
The White House conceded that including the claim in the speech was a mistake and that documents alleging a deal between Iraq and Niger had been forged.
“We consulted about the paper and recommended against using that material,” a senior administration official was quoted as saying in the Washington Post on Friday.
Rice said the CIA had examined the specific reference to African uranium.
She said the White House “absolutely” had confidence in CIA Director George Tenet, saying he had served “very well”.
Adding to the chorus of criticism, the Republican chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee faulted the CIA on Friday for “sloppy handling” of faulty information that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Africa, and specifically blamed its Director George Tenet.
Bush’s controversial State
Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas said in a statement in Washington that even 10 days before US President George W. Bush’s January State of the Union speech, the CIA was “still asserting that Iraq was seeking to acquire uranium from Africa and that those attempts were further evidence of Saddam’s efforts to reconstitute his nuclear program.”
Bush included that assertion, which has now been determined to be based on forged documents, in his State of the Union speech. Critics are pointing to that as a sign the Bush administration misled the public about the threat from Iraq.
British intelligence considered
Meanwhile, the British government said it had separate intelligence unavailable to the United States and said the claim was true.
White House officials argued that since the paper issued by the British government contained the assertion, then the claim should be factually accurate, the CBS said.
Rice confirmed that Bush’s statement about the uranium cited British intelligence, saying the “underlying intelligence” for the British document was in the official US National Intelligence Estimate.
She said no one had expressed any doubts to Bush about the intelligence underlying the Estimate.