Thu, Oct 05, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Bush made us beg for war data, says Australia's Howard

AFP , SYDNEY

Australian Prime Minister John Howard admitted that he was forced to plead with ally US President George W. Bush for access to secret intelligence on the war on Iraq.

Howard, one of the key US allies in Bush's global war on terror, personally intervened to end delays in receiving key intelligence on the war in Iraq that Canberra is helping fight, he said in comments published yesterday.

"He [Bush] said it would happen, and then when it didn't happen immediately, I expressed my concern," Howard said.

His comments confirmed claims by US journalist Bob Woodward that Howard and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were forced to make repeated appeals to Bush for access to highly classified intelligence.

The Pentagon denied the allies access to vital information in ways that "went beyond the absurd," Woodward said in his latest book, State of Denial.

Rather than follow White House orders and allow unfettered access to its intelligence network, the Pentagon instead created a parallel version that excluded information the military did not want Australia and Britain to see, Woodward said.

"I wasn't very happy with those delays," Howard told reporters. "That's why I intervened, and now I'm advised that [information] flows are occurring that are meant to occur."

However, the access was not granted until last year, a year after Howard first appealed to Bush and two years after the start of the war in Iraq, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

In September last year, Bush upgraded Australia to the highest rank of US intelligence partner, despite resistance from US intelligence organizations, the Australian newspaper said.

Howard put the delays down to "inter-agency jealousy" between US intelligence organs.

"These agencies in Washington tend to act as laws unto themselves," he said. "Even the president doesn't always get what he wants straight away."

Bush's special assistant and senior director of defense policy, Franklin Miller, said the Pentagon's treatment of Australia and Britain was "one of the most inexcusable examples of a failure to get things done," according to Woodward.

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