Blair demands apology from BBC

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has demanded an apology from the BBC after a judicial inquiry cleared his government of allegations that it doctored intelligence on Iraq.

    BBC director general Greg Dykes has offered partial apology

    "We still do want an apology," Blair's spokesman told reporters, as BBC governors meet to discuss their next move in the wake of Lord Brian Hutton's report into events which led to the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly.
    BBC director general Greg Dyke apologised on Wednesday for errors in its 29 May report alleging that a September 2002 dossier on Iraq and weapons of mass destruction had been "sexed up," but Blair's spokesman made it clear that this was not enough. 

    Lord Hutton's report, which exonerated the British prime minister of misleading the public over Iraqi weapons, has shaken the broadcasting corporation to its very foundations.

    The remaining 11 BBC governors, guardians of its independence, will huddle at Broadcasting House in central London to ponder their next move after chairman Gavyn Davies resigned in response to Hutton's damning conclusions.

    "There is an honourable tradition in British public life that those charged with authority at the top of an organisation should accept responsibility for what happens in that organisation," Davies said in his resignation statement.

    A question of reponsibility

    BBC director general Greg Dykes apologised on Wednesday for errors in the 29 May report by Today programme defence report Andrew Gilligan, which erroneously said the government knew the 45-minute attack claim to be wrong.

    Blair "is a mixture of Harry Houdini and a greased piglet ... Nailing Blair is like trying to pin jelly to a wall"

    Boris Johnson,
    Conservative MP and editor

    But Dyke defended the "greater part" of the report, namely that Downing Street had exaggerated the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction - weapons which US and British forces now controlling Iraq have yet to find.

    The government was also cleared by Hutton of any blame into the suicide of weapons expert David Kelly - who slit his wrist and died in July after his exposure as the source for the BBC radio programme.

    But such a conclusion has led to cries of "whitewash" in nearly all newspapers not owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

    Report criticism

    "Saint Tony - Hutton rinses Blair whiter than white," declared the Daily Express newspaper on its front page alongside a photo of the prime minister smiling with a halo over his head.

    UK media say Lord Hutton had
    "whitewashed" the premier

    The Independent was more succinct. "Whitewash?" it asked on page one.

    In the Daily Mail, the conservative columnist Max Hastings called Hutton's report "a great disservice to the British people. Lord Hutton provides 328 pages of reasons for reuniting the prime minister with his favourite headgear, a coronet of moral superiority."

    Boris Johnson, a Conservative MP and editor of the Spectator magazine said Blair "is a mixture of Harry Houdini and a greased piglet ... Nailing Blair is like trying to pin jelly to a wall."

    BBC independence

    Alastair Campbell, who resigned as Blair's most trusted aide while Hutton's inquiry was underway, has all but called for more heads to roll at the BBC.

    Campbell is pushing for a review of the charter that guarantees BBC independence from the government and empowers it to collect a hefty tax on television sets.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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