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Bush fills final places on Iraq WMD panel

US President George W Bush has named two top academic figures as the final members of a commission investigating failures in intelligence used to justify the Iraq war.

Mr Bush announced the commission last week under heavy political pressure and gave it until March 31, 2005 to complete its investigation - well after the November presidential election.

Democrats want it to report back sooner.

To fill in the two remaining seats on the hand-picked panel, Mr Bush picked Charles Vest, who has served as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1990, and Henry Rowen, a public policy and management professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Mr Bush is scrambling to limit the political fallout from revelations that almost all the pre-war intelligence about Iraq's alleged unconventional weapons may have been wrong.

Claims that Iraq had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were the main reason cited by Mr Bush for the Iraq war, in which more than 500 US troops have died.

Last week, Mr Bush picked former Virginia governor and senator Charles Robb, a Democrat, and appeals court judge Laurence Silberman, a Republican, as the commission's chairmen.

The other members are Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, Lloyd Cutler, who was White House counsel for former Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Yale president Richard Levin, Admiral William Studeman, former deputy director of the CIA and former appeals court judge Pat Wald.

Democrats have questioned whether the commission can be independent if its nine members are hand-picked by Mr Bush and his team.

The White House has ignored their appeals that Congress authorise the commission.

Democrats also want the commission to investigate whether the Bush administration exaggerated the CIA's intelligence to build a case against Iraq.

Mr Bush had initially been cool to the idea of a commission and agreed to it last weekend under pressure from Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill.



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