The FBI has determined that financial gain, not an effort to influence U.S. policy, was behind the forged documents the Bush administration used to bolster its prewar claim that Iraq sought uranium ore in Niger.

The FBI's investigation began after questions arose about a sentence in President Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech in which he said Iraq was pursuing the uranium ore, part of his argument to justify invading Iraq and toppling President Saddam Hussein.

Some U.S. and foreign officials disputed the authenticity of the documents.

The FBI had refused comment on the matter until Italian news sources reported this week that FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III sent the Italian government a letter in July with the results of the bureau's two-year investigation.

The investigation "confirmed the documents to be fraudulent and concluded they were more likely part of a criminal scheme for financial gain," FBI spokesman John Miller said yesterday, describing the contents of the letter. Miller did not say what led the FBI to its conclusion or identify the perpetrators of the hoax.

Italian officials identified Rocco Martino, described as a one-time informer for the Italian secret service, as the source of the forgery, according to Italian Sen. Massimo Brutti.