October 08, 2002 12:00 PM

Promoting movies and taking political stances are not the easiest things in the world, as Tom Cruise has apparently learned.

In Italy during the last week of September to beat the drums of their sci-fi collaboration “Minority Report,” Cruise and director Steven Spielberg were asked by reporters at a press conference for their views on President Bush’s proposal to go to war against Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein.

Cruise, 40, replied that he did not have all the information that the president had on the situation, “but I believe that Saddam has committed many crimes against humanity and against his own people.”

The observation was interpreted, in news reports on both sides of the Atlantic, as an endorsement of the Bush call to war — only that’s not really the case, Cruise now says.

“I was actually misquoted on that,” the star told TV’s “Extra” in a segment aired Monday. “I don’t know what Bush and (British) Prime Minister Blair know, so I can’t sit here and judge.”

As for Spielberg, 56, a past supporter of former president Bill Clinton and the director of the war epics “Saving Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List,” he was quoted at that same Italian press conference as having said, “If Bush, as I believe, has reliable information on the fact that Saddam Hussein is making weapons of mass destruction, I cannot not support the policies of his government.”

But very quickly after his statement was carried in the media, Spielberg dispatched a press release stating, “It was never my intention to give an endorsement (of the Bush plan).”

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