WASHINGTON -- CIA Director George Tenet's suggestion that Iraq is unlikely to strike the United States first does not undercut President Bush's warnings that Saddam Hussein would attack America, the White House spokesman said Wednesday.
Tenet told lawmakers in a letter Tuesday that Iraq "for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical or biological weapons." Tenet also warned that Saddam might turn to his biological and chemical weapons for terrorist purposes if provoked by an imminent U.S.-led attack.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said Bush sees a "grave and gathering danger" from Iraq, and believed Tenet's letter bolstered his view.
Tenet "did not say we're OK," Fleischer said. "If Saddam Hussein holds a gun to someone's head, while he denies that he even owns a gun, do you really want to take a chance that he'll never use it?"
At the same time, he questioned the accuracy of the intelligence-gathering that led to Tenet's assessment.
"Everybody agrees that guesses about the likelihood are just that, they are best estimates," Fleischer said.
Tenet's letter came as Congress prepares to vote this week on a resolution giving the president broad authority to use military force to dismantle Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.
Congress stood willing to grant President Bush the power he wants to combat the threat of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, but not before raising questions on the dangers of taking on Iraq militarily without the support of an international coalition.
After a full day of speeches on Tuesday, the House was on course to vote by Thursday on its resolution.
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