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Bush To Order Probe Into Prewar Iraq WMD Charges

London, 2 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush today said that he will establish an independent panel to investigate prewar intelligence which claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

"I am putting together an independent, bipartisan commission to analyze where we stand, what we can do better, as we fight this war against terror," Bush said.

Bush said he will consult with former U.S. chief weapons inspector David Kay before ordering the investigation. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq on intelligence that Kay said he now believes was "all wrong."

Elsewhere, in London, a committee of British parliamentarians today said that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is undermining U.S. and British efforts in the war on terrorism.

Also today, Bush asked Congress to approve a $2.4 trillion budget that features large increases for the U.S. military. The spending document is for the fiscal year that begins on 1 October of this year. It contains a record $521 billion deficit. Bush blamed the soaring deficit on the 2001 recession and the costs of fighting a war on terrorism.

"I am confident our budget addresses a very serious situation and that is that we are at war and we had dealt with a recession and our budget is able to address those significant factors in a way that reduces the [federal budget] deficit in half," Bush said.

Under the proposed budget subjected to approval by lawmakers overall spending would rise by 3.5 percent from the current year.

Bush asked Congress to authorize nearly $402 billion for military spending. This represents a 7 percent increase from the current levels.