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Rice: Hussein's arms history justified war

The Bush administration, justifying its decision to go to war against Iraq despite its failure since then to find any banned weapons there, said Thursday that even if Saddam Hussein had not amassed stockpiles of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, the United States could not have afforded to leave him in power because he had a history of trying to acquire them.

On the defensive since its former chief weapons inspector said he now believed that Iraq did not have any substantial stockpiles of banned weapons at the start of the war, the White House dispatched Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, to appear on the three network morning news programs to say the war had been justified even if Hussein's weapons stockpiles were ultimately found to have been nonexistent.

"With Saddam Hussein, we were dealing with somebody who had used weapons of mass destruction, who had attacked his neighbors twice, who was allowing terrorists to run in his country and was funding terrorists outside of his country," Rice said on the Early Show on CBS.

"Given that, and his history of refusing to account for his weapons of mass destruction and his efforts to conceal his programs the president of the United States had no choice but to deal with that gathering threat and to American interests and to the interests of our friends abroad."

Rice continued to rebuff calls from many Democrats and from the former chief weapons inspector, David Kay, for an independent inquiry into how U.S. intelligence organizations apparently misjudged the extent and the sophistication of Hussein's weapons programs before the war.

But she signaled that President Bush would support a more narrowly focused review of U.S. intelligence capabilities in the war on terrorism if the inquiry could be done at a time and in a manner under the White House's control.

Before the administration undertakes any review, she said, it wants to have the final report of the organization Kay headed until last week, the Iraq Survey Group. The group's new leader, Charles Duelfer, has said he does not know how long it will take him to finish scouring Iraq for arms and evidence of research programs.