Grand jury told how Rove indirectly confirmed the identity of CIA agent

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The Independent US

The disclosure is bound to fuel demands by Dem-ocrats that President Bush fire Mr Rove - in keeping with a pledge he made shortly after the columnist Robert Novak identified Ms Plame in July 2003, that he would "deal with" any White House staff found to be involved with the leak.

Mr Bush himself has avoided comment. But he has signalled he intends to stick by the man credited with engineering his election successes, making sure he was photographed chatting with Mr Rove as the two left on a presidential visit to Indiana this week.

The fate of Mr Rove hinges on the findings of the special prosecutor who is investigating if anyone broke the law making it a crime to deliberately disclose the name of a CIA secret agent.

Mr Rove has told the grand jury investigating the case that he did not divulge Ms Plame's name. He maintains he learnt it from Mr Novak during their conversation. Ms Plame is the wife of Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador sent to Africa in 2002 to look into reports that Saddam Hussein bought uranium there.

Mr Wilson later accused the administration of distorting intelligence to justify war in Iraq. He says that his wife's name was leaked to "punish" him.