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President Bush Heads Home, Faces Congressional Inquiry

The president began his trip May 30 with stops in Poland and Russia and a European economic summit in France. He also attended a meeting of Arab leaders in Egypt and a peace summit in Jordan, where he encouraged Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to end conflict in the Middle East.

In Qatar, Mr. Bush addressed a U.S. inquiry into whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction before the war and defended his decision to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime.

“This is a man who spent decades hiding tools of mass murder,” Mr. Bush told the troops. “He knew the inspectors were looking for them. You know better than me he’s got a big country in which to hide them.”

Following the failure of U.S. inspection teams to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq thus far, Congress has launched an investigation into the legitimacy of intelligence information used to justify the U.S.- and British-led war.

Some politicians have accused the president of exaggerating claims that Iraq presented an immediate threat to U.S. safety.

The CIA also is conducting an internal review of a top-secret intelligence report issued last October that provided President Bush with his last overview of Iraq’s weapons program before the war.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Tony Blair is under fire from the British Parliament, which has launched its own inquiry into pre-war intelligence.

On his flight home on Air Force One, the president flew over Iraq and pointed out the site of the first U.S. attack on Baghdad March 20, according to White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Despite U.S. efforts to maintain peace in the postwar country, tensions have mounted between U.S. soldiers and Iraqis. On Thursday one U.S. soldier was killed and five injured when an assailant launched a rocket-propelled grenade at troops in the city of Fallujah.

Iraqis have also expressed frustration that the U.S. has not done enough to maintain order in their country following the war.

The president is scheduled to arrive in Washington, D.C. on Thursday evening.

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