Thursday, April 26, 2007

12:48 p.m.

OSLO — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said today she has already answered the questions she has been subpoenaed to answer before a congressional committee and suggested that she is not inclined to comply with the order.

Miss Rice said she would respond by mail to questions from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on the Bush administration’s prewar claims about Saddam Hussein seeking weapons of mass destruction but signaled she would not appear in person.

“I am more than happy to answer them again in a letter,” she told reporters in Oslo, where she is attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.

The comments were her first reaction to a subpoena issued yesterday by the committee chaired by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat.

Miss Rice said she respected the oversight function of the legislative branch but maintained that she had already testified in person and under oath about claims that Iraq had sought uranium from Africa during her confirmation hearing for the job of secretary of state.

“I addressed these questions, almost the same questions, during my confirmation hearing,” she said. “This is an issue that has been answered and answered and answered.”

Miss Rice noted that she had been serving as President Bush’s national security adviser during the period covered by the panel’s questions and stressed the administration’s position that presidential aides not confirmed by the Senate cannot be forced to testify before Congress under the doctrine of executive privilege.

“This all took place in my role as national security adviser,” she said. “There is a constitutional principle. There is a separation of powers, and advisers to the president under that constitutional principle are not generally required to go and testify in Congress.

“So, I think we have to observe and uphold the constitutional principle, but I also observe and uphold the obligation of Congress to conduct its oversight role. I respect that. But I think I have more than answered these questions and answered them directly to Congressman Waxman.”

Miss Rice declined to respond when asked if she would absolutely refuse to testify under subpoena.

Her spokesman, Sean McCormack, said later that no final decision had been made about Miss Rice appearing before the committee.

Mr. Waxman’s committee voted 21-10 yesterday to subpoena Miss Rice despite the State Department’s insistence that the questions have already been answered, and the doctrine of executive privilege.

The congressman has complained for weeks that Miss Rice and the State Department have failed to respond to questions about the claim that Saddam Hussein had tried to by uranium from Niger.

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