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Gates' review of attempt on pope's life questioned


WASHINGTON -- Robert M. Gates, President Bush's nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency, faces new accusations that he slanted a CIA assessment of a 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II to suggest that it was masterminded by the KGB, informed sources said.

The sources said that the evidence shows that Mr. Gates, then a senior CIA official, disregarded several contrary opinions by agency analysts and instead portrayed as a "consensus" the conclusion that the assassination attempt was KGB-inspired.

Mr. Gates' allies concede that the disclosure -- contained in CIA documents being reviewed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- could significantly embarrass the administration and may prove the most threatening new issue against Mr. Gates as his confirmation hearings begin tomorrow.

Sources said that Mr. Gates may also face questions about new evidence that he played a key role in compiling sensitive intelligence data for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during Iraq's war with Iran.

The new accusations center on questions of integrity and professional judgment.

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