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Agence France Presse

Bush's Attorney General Faces Threat of Perjury Probe

AFP staffwriters

WASHINGTON - A senior US senator is threatening to request a perjury inquiry into President George W. Bush's attorney general amid accusations his sworn testimony before Congress contradicted an account from a top intelligence official.

The threat comes amid an escalating battle between Congress and the White House over the conduct of embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is accused of purging prosecutors for political reasons and of dodging queries by lawmakers. 0726 04

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy said on Wednesday he is giving Gonzales until late next week to amend his testimony or he will request the Justice Department's inspector general to launch a perjury probe.

"I'll ask the inspector general to determine who's telling the truth," said Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judicary Committee, US media reported.

The Democrat spoke a day after Gonzales faced a tough grilling before Leahy's committee with lawmakers saying they did not trust him and accusing him of sidestepping questions.

After the hearing, lawmakers pointed to documents that seemed at odds with Gonzales' version of a White House meeting in March 2004 with lawmakers.

According to a letter form the former director of US intelligence, John Negroponte, the White House meeting was a briefing on a controversial domestic spying program involving warrantless surveillance, the Washington Post and other papers reported.

But Gonzales has maintained the purpose of the meeting was to address "intelligence activities" that were under legal dispute and has denied the session focused on the warrantless wiretapping program.

A Justice Department spokesman said that Gonzales "stands by his testimony," the Post reported.

As Gonzales came under fresh pressure over his remarks, a committee in the House of Representatives meanwhile voted on Wednesday to file rare contempt of Congress citations against senior White House staff over Gonzales' firing of federal prosecutors.

The move raised the stakes in the feud between lawmakers and the US president over the sacking of at least eight federal prosecutors.

Members of the Democratic-led House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted 22-17 to pass to the full House contempt citations against White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten and former legal counsel Harriet Miers.

Bolten and Miers refused to comply with subpoenas filed by the committee to testify about the affair, after Bush invoked executive privilege.

If the full House, as expected, also endorses the citations, Bush's right to apply this legal doctrine -- under which the president can refuse to produce certain documents and testimony to Congress -- could land the case in the courts.

Copyright © 2007 Agence France Presse.

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