ROME -- Italy's spy chief denied yesterday that Italian intelligence had any hand in distributing a dossier that claimed Saddam Hussein tried to buy uranium in Niger, Italian lawmakers said.
Enzo Bianco, chairman of an oversight committee on secret services, told reporters that the intelligence chief, Nicolo Pollari, and Gianni Letta, a top aide to Premier Silvio Berlusconi, briefed a dozen top lawmakers after a newspaper report alleging Italy had passed the dossier to Britain and the United States knowing it was a fake.
Bianco said the officials denied that SISMI, Italy's secret service, ''ever had a role in the dossier that was supposed to have demonstrated that Iraq was in an advanced phase of possession of enriched uranium."
The United States and Britain used the claim that Hussein was seeking uranium in Africa to bolster their case for war. The intelligence supporting the claim was later deemed unreliable.
Commission member Senator Massimo Brutti told reporters after the closed-door session that the commission was told that the Italian secret services warned the United States in January 2003 that the dossier was fake.
But later, the senator called the Associated Press to retract that statement. He said that the commission was not told that the Italians had warned the Americans.
Brutti said he was confused by the barrage of reporters' questions when the lawmakers emerged from the briefing.
Brutti said what he meant to say was that the commission was told that a SISMI official, contacted by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna about the dossier, told the UN agency that ''those documents didn't come from SISMI, they weren't produced nor supplied by SISMI."
''Our [intelligence services] were not involved," Brutti said the briefing was told.
President Bush included the allegation about Iraq seeking the uranium in his January 2003 State of the Union address, accusing Iraq of pursuing banned weapons of mass destruction programs.