warned the US Government that claims about Iraq's nuclear ambitions
were not true months before President Bush used them to make his
case for war, the BBC has learned.
Soldiers are yet to find weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq
Doubts about a claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from the
African state of Niger were aired 10 months before Mr Bush included
the allegation in his key State of the Union address this year, the
CIA has told the BBC.
On Tuesday, the White House for the first time officially
acknowledged that the Niger claim was wrong and should not have been
used in the president's State of the Union speech in January.
But the CIA has said that a former US diplomat had already
established the claim was false in March 2002 - and that the
information had been passed on to government departments, including
the White House, well before Mr Bush mentioned it in the speech.
Both President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair mentioned
the claim, based on British intelligence, that Iraq was trying to
get uranium from Niger as part of its attempt to build a nuclear
Mr Blair is under fire from British MPs about the credibility of
a dossier of evidence, which set out his case for war.
And in the US, increasing doubts are being raised about the
American use of intelligence.
In his keynote speech to Congress in January, the President said:
"The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently
sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
But the documents alleging a transaction were found to have been
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Tuesday: "The
president's statement was based on the predicate of the yellow cake
[uranium] from Niger".
"So given the fact that the report on the yellow cake did not
turn out to be accurate, that is reflective of the president's
a former diplomat, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, went on the record at
the weekend to say that he had travelled to Africa to investigate
the uranium claims and found no evidence to support them.
Now the CIA has told the BBC that Mr Wilson's findings had been
passed onto the White House as early as March 2002.
That means that the administration would have known before the
State of the Union address that the information was likely false -
not just subsequently.
In response, a US government official told the BBC that the White
House received hundreds of intelligence reports every day.
The official said there was no evidence that this specific cable
about uranium had been passed on to the president.
But in Congress, Democrats are demanding a full investigation
into the intelligence that underpinned the case for war.
They have demanded to know if President Bush used evidence that
he knew to be weak or wrong.
The British Government has stood by its assertion, saying the
forged documents were not the only evidence used to reach its
conclusion that Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium from Africa.
On Tuesday Mr Blair defended the assessment, telling a committee
of MPs that it was not a "fantasy" and that the intelligence
services themselves stood by the allegation.
"The evidence that we had that the Iraqi Government had gone back
to try to purchase further amounts of uranium from Niger did not
come from these so-called "forged" documents, they came from
separate intelligence," Mr Blair said.
However, Mr Blair did not specify what that separate intelligence