WASHINGTON – President Bush's national security adviser said Wednesday that indicted White House aide I. Lewis Libby (search) is "a fine person" whom he misses both as a colleague and a friend.
Stephen Hadley (search) said the charges against Libby would not undercut Bush's credibility as he meets with Latin American leaders in Argentina (search) this weekend and travels to Brazil and Panama.
"The president makes foreign policy," Hadley said. "And it is the president who is going on this trip and he will be bringing his foreign policy with him."
Libby, known as "Scooter," was chief of staff and national security adviser for Vice President Dick Cheney (search). Libby resigned Friday after being indicted on charges of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements in the investigation into the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity.
Libby was to make his first court appearance Thursday before U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton.
Hadley said he had worked closely with Libby on national security issues and that Libby had served Bush and Cheney well. "And I will miss him as a colleague and as a friend."
Some Republicans inside and outside the White House were distressed last week by Bush's unqualified praise of Libby as he departed. They viewed it as a missed opportunity to restore badly needed credibility because the president neither condemned the aide's actions nor acknowledged that White House spokesman Scott McClellan had said categorically in 2003 that Libby was not involved in the leak.
On another issue, Hadley said that he and others involved in a meeting in 2002 with the head of Italy's intelligence agency had no recollection of any discussion of an alleged attempt by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger. Hadley said it was simply a 15 minute courtesy call.
The office of Premier Silvio Berlusconi also has denied reports in the left-leaning daily La Repubblica alleging that the government was involved in giving the United States and Britain documents known to be forged that detailed a purported Iraqi deal to buy 500 tons of uranium yellowcake from Niger for weapons use.
The U.S. and Britain used the claim to show that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.