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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Blair Addresses Congress

Aired July 17, 2003 - 19:01   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: First, top story, while the controversy continues over prewar intelligence gathering, British Prime Minister Tony Blair today reaffirmed his support for the war in Iraq.
As President Bush's top ally in the decision to go to war, Mr. Blair received a warm reception in Washington today.

White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has the latest -- Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are fierce allies in the war on terror but today they definitely fought back, both accused of using shoddy intelligence, to bolster their case for the war.

Both of them asked very pointed questions here at the White House, specifically about that 16-word statement the president used in his State of the Union address claiming that Iraq was trying to obtain uranium from Africa.

Well, since then CIA director George Tenet has testified, saying that that statement was cleared but that it was a mistake to include it in the president's speech.

Well, President Bush asked if he took responsibility for the statement he made, in his State of the Union. While he did not take responsibility for that specific statement he did make a broad case for his case for war and that he, in fact, approved the intelligence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I take responsibility for making the decision, the tough decision, to put together a coalition to remove Saddam Hussein because the intelligence, not only our intelligence, but the intelligence of this great country, made a clear and compelling case that Saddam Hussein was a threat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, that statement came from British intelligence from a third source about the uranium that was being acquired -- or trying to be acquired from Iraq from Niger.

Well, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, not mincing words today, stood by his intelligence making it very clear that he, too, supported the case for war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: The British intelligence that we had we believe is genuine. We stand by that intelligence.

And one interesting fact, I think people don't generally know, in case people should think that whole idea of a link between Iraq and Niger was some invention, in the 1980s we know for sure that Iraq purchased around about 270 tons of uranium from Niger.

(ED VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, both leaders recognized they have a real test here when it comes to their credibilities and legitimacy of their arguments, both coming out swinging today, certainly hoping to put this issue behind them -- Anderson.

COOPER: Suzanne, there has been some tension between the United States and Great Britain regarding the status of some British citizens in Guantanamo Bay detained there.

Any resolution on that?

MALVEAUX: Well, so far there hasn't been a resolution but the two leaders are talking about that. They said that they would.

This is a point of tension for the two countries. There are two Brits who are in U.S. custody, military custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They are suspected of being a terrorist and Britain wants them back in their country to send them back. They do not want them to face the death penalty or certainly a military tribunal, which would be their fate here.

That is something that is seen as a test back in Britain, just how much influence and how much weight British Prime Minister Tony Blair has when its comes to giving support to the United States. What does he get in return?

COOPER: All right. Suzanne Malveaux at the White House, thanks very much.

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