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Kerry: Bush told 'stories' about Iraqi prewar threat

During an endorsement announcement by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, left, Kerry critcized President Bush's comments about prewar Iraqi intelligence Sunday in Richmond, Virginia.
During an endorsement announcement by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, left, Kerry critcized President Bush's comments about prewar Iraqi intelligence Sunday in Richmond, Virginia.

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• The Candidates: Bush | Kerry
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John F. Kerry

RICHMOND, Virginia (CNN) -- Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. John Kerry accused President Bush on Sunday of changing his story on U.S. intelligence about Iraq during an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press."

At a news conference in Richmond, where he was endorsed by Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Kerry also suggested Bush is revising history on what led him to approach the United Nations before taking military action.

In a written statement, Kerry called on Bush to testify before the intelligence commission he has appointed to investigate the prewar intelligence.

"This morning on 'Meet the Press,' President Bush said that his decision to go to war with Iraq when he did was because Saddam Hussein had, quote, 'the ability to make weapons,' " Kerry told reporters at the news conference.

"This is a far cry from what the president and his administration told the American people throughout 2002. Back then, President Bush repeatedly told the American people that Saddam Hussein, quote, 'has got chemical weapons.'

"They told us they could deploy those weapons within 45 minutes to do injury to our troops," Kerry said. "They told us they had aerial vehicles and the capacity to deliver those weapons through the air. And it was on that basis that he sent America's sons and daughters marching off to war."

Bush said on "Meet the Press" that he had "expected to find the weapons," but that his decision to go to war was really "based upon that intelligence in the context of the war against terror." (Full story)

But Kerry said that the U.S. intelligence community apparently had its own questions about whether Iraq had such weapons.

"The problem is not just that he is changing his story now -- it is that it appears he was telling the American people stories in 2002," Kerry said. "He told America that Iraq had chemical weapons two months after his own Defense Intelligence Agency told him that there was, quote, 'no reliable information on whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons.' "

Asked about his support for a Senate resolution making war an option, Kerry responded, "We voted for a process" with assurance from the Bush administration that weapons of mass destruction were "the only rationale for going to war."

Kerry said he and other lawmakers pushed the administration to build a "legitimate global coalition" and "honor" the process of U.N. weapons inspections by giving it time to find answers.

"I noticed today the president said he made the decision to go to the U.N. Let's not revise history completely. We forced the president to go to the U.N. We pushed the president to go to the U.N," he said.

Kerry accused the administration of picking and choosing intelligence that promoted its position while leaving out "clear evidence to the contrary."

Bush, however, said in his "Meet the Press" interview that "Congress saw the same intelligence I had, and they looked at exactly what I looked at, and they made an informed judgment based upon the information that I had."

Kerry said he questions whether the United Nations would now trust U.S. intelligence on any other country. There is an "urgency" to get answers, he said.

He reiterated his call for Bush to have "a legitimate and immediate investigation into the extraordinary failure of intelligence or to help explain to the American people whether there were politics in the development of that intelligence."

"It ought to be done in a matter of months," Kerry said.

"I ask the president to take responsibility and set the record straight and immediately convene people who can give those answers to the American people," he said.

In a written statement, Kerry called on Bush "in light of his new information today" to "immediately agree to testify before his intelligence commission."

Bush said on NBC that he'd be glad to visit the commission but would not testify.

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