Bush 'ordered Iraq war during Afghan conflict'

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President George Bush secretly ordered a war plan drawn up against Iraq less than two months after US forces attacked Afghanistan and was so worried the decision would be controversial that he did not tell all his senior officials, according to a new book by one of America's most authoritative journalists.

Bob Woodward, one of the legendary Woodward and Bernstein duo who broke the Watergate story for The Washington Post, says that Mr Bush feared that if news got out about the Iraq plan as US forces were fighting another conflict, people would think he was too eager for war.

"I knew what would happen if people thought we were developing a potential war plan for Iraq," Mr Bush is quoted in Mr Woodward's new book Plan of Attack, published on Monday. "It was such a high-stakes moment and ... it would look like that I was anxious to go to war. And I'm not anxious to go to war."

Mr Bush and his aides have denied accusations they were preoccupied with Iraq at the cost of paying attention to the al-Qa'ida terrorist threat before the 11 September attacks. A commission investigating the attacks just concluded several weeks of public testimony from government officials.

Asked about this yesterday Mr Bush did not deny he had ordered a plan of attack for Iraq. He said: "I do know that it was Afghanistan that was on my mind and I didn't really start focusing on Iraq until later on."