Rice to testify after Bush U-turn

The Bush Administration bowed to mounting pressure to allow Ms Rice to stand, but said it was only doing so on condition that it would not set a precedent.

In addition, President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have agreed to a single joint private session with all 10 commissioners.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the commission had unanimously agreed to the administration’s conditions for the testimony.

Previously officials had insisted that Ms Rice could meet the commission in private for unsworn conversations but not face a full hearing.

President Bush and Ms Rice had said that her appearance would contravene the constitutional separation of powers.

The 9/11 commission is examining the circumstances surrounding the September 2001 attacks that left about 3,000 people dead.

The about-face was revealed in letter to the commission from White House counsel Alberto Gonzalez.

“The president recognises the truly unique and extraordinary circumstances underlying the commission’s responsibility to prepare a detailed report on the facts and circumstances of the horrific attacks on September 11, 2001,” Mr Gonzalez wrote to the commission chairman, Republican Thomas Kean, and vice chairman, Democrat Lee Hamilton.

Mr Bush came under increasing pressure with counter-terrorism tzar Richard Clarke’s allegations the administration ignored the urgency of an al-Qaeda threat before September 11 and then focused on Iraq as a likely culprit afterward.

The allegations from Mr Clarke, who served four US presidents, challenged Mr Bush’s image as a strong leader on homeland security and the US war on terrorism, which the President has been showcasing in his re-election campaign.

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