WASHINGTON – National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (search) said Wednesday that she feels responsible for the questionable statement in President Bush's State of the Union address about Iraqi plans to buy uranium in Africa.
"I certainly feel personal responsibility for this entire episode," she said in an interview on PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer." "What I feel most responsible for is that this is detracting from the very strong case the president has been making."
Rice was the latest administration official, including CIA Director George Tenet (search) and the president himself, to take responsibility for the statement tying Iraq to Africa.
The Bush administration has been barraged by embarrassing questions asking why it included the claim in the State of the Union more than three months after a similar claim was removed from a Bush speech in Cincinnati.
Rice said Tenet called her deputy, Stephen Hadley (search), in the fall and told him not to put the claim about uranium in a presidential speech in Cincinnati.
She said she later learned Tenet had sent "a set of clearance comments on why he wanted this out of the speech."
"I can tell you, I either didn't see the memo, I don't remember seeing the memo," Rice said, adding that it covered many areas of the speech besides the uranium claim.
Several months later, when she saw the reference in the State of the Union speech, "I thought it was completely credible and that it was backed by the agency," she said.
Rice said steps are being taken, including more double-checking of such changes from one speech to the next, to avoid a similar lapse in the future.
"We're going to have a process where we don't have to rely on people's memories to link what was taken out of the speech in Cincinnati to what was put in the speech for the State of the Union," she said.
Rice said it's important not to let the controversy about the disputed statement cloud the strong case the administration had against Iraq.
Bush strongly defended his national security adviser Wednesday, saying she was an "honest, fabulous person" and the United States was lucky to have her in government.