Blair-BBC row intensifies

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair accused the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) of attacking his integrity by reporting that he and his staff over-exaggerated a report on Iraq’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.

    Blair is under mounting pressure


     

    Blair made the statement in an interview with the Observer newspaper, which was published on Sunday.

    The UK Premier said it was “absurd” to think that he or any other prime minister would embellish intelligence information for political ends.

    “You could not make a more serious charge against a prime minister -- that I ordered our troops into conflict on the basis of intelligence evidence that I falsified,” he said.

    In late May, BBC radio’s defence journalist Andrew Gilligan reported that a September dossier on Iraq and its alleged possession of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons had been over-exaggerated in the run-up to the war.

    The United States and the UK justified the war against Iraq based on these allegations. Since the start of the war on 20 March, London and Washington have not found any WMD.

    Gilligan’s report quoted an intelligence source as saying the dossier on Iraq was flawed. He told the House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee that his source was “one of the senior British officials in charge of drawing up the dossier”.

    In particular, the source said that the dossier’s claim that Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons in just 45 minutes was inserted by Downing Street, despite reservations of intelligence chiefs.

    Hearings

    Campbell has demanded an
    apology from the BBC

    The Foreign Affairs Committee will report on Monday whether Blair embellished the report.

    Blair’s close aide and media strategist Alastair Campbell stepped up the ante against the BBC by publicly demanding an apology from the public broadcaster.

    Campbell also appeared before the hearings, which lasted for two weeks.

    The BBC, responding to Campbell, said Downing Street was trying to manipulate the way it covered news.

    Government minister Ben Bradshaw echoed Campbell, demanding that the BBC should apologize for the report.

    The row has cost Blair confidence among voters, according to the results of a poll in the Mail newspaper on Sunday.

    Sixty-two percent of respondents thought Campbell had over-stated the report, while 66 percent said they trusted the BBC to tell the truth.

    Since US-led troops ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, London and Washington have been under mounting pressure to provide evidence of Baghdad’s alleged weapons.

    SOURCE: Unspecified


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