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Iraq war: call for independent probe intensifies

By Sridhar Krishnaswami

NEW YORK, JAN. 31. Faced with increasing pressure for an independent investigation on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, especially in the context of the latest revelations that there had been a colossal intelligence failure, the White House is saying that it also wants to get to the bottom of the whole thing.

"I too want to know the facts," said the President, George W. Bush, whose administration early last year said that the main reason for going to war in Iraq was to rid of that country's stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction which were also described as being an imminent threat to the U.S.

"I want to be able to compare what the Iraq Survey Group has found with what we thought was there prior to going into Iraq", Mr. Bush said.

The Iraq Survey Group was put together by the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency; and its leader, David Kay, came out with his major finding that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, even while holding out the `theoretical' possibility that such weapons could be found down the line.

For the last several days, the Bush administration has been under intense pressure on the statements of Mr. Kay, with the Democrats on Capitol Hill calling for a Congressional Commission probe into the whole issue.

And administration critics have been calling for the resignation or the dismissal of the head of the CIA, George Tenet.

The CIA and Mr. Tenet were at the centre of a storm not too long ago over a statement in the President's State of the Union address last year that Iraq sought to buy uranium from an African nation. That claim proved to be wrong.

The call for Mr. Tenet's resignation has come from a key Democratic aspirant for the White House this November 2. "I think there has been a lack of accountability at the CIA. I regret it", said the Senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry.

On Capitol Hill, an influential member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein, has called for an independent investigation into the intelligence material used to justify the war on Iraq.

The California Democrat, who had earlier opposed such an investigation, is now saying that she will support a resolution seeking a probe.

While the conservative and the right wing Republicans are confident that they could use the numbers game on Capitol Hill to thwart any Congressional commission from coming about, moderate and independent Republicans are not too happy with the goings-on and are leaning towards some kind of an investigation.

"There has to be an outside commission investigating that and until that happens, most Americans would not be satisfied," said Senator John McCain, the Republican from Arizona.

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