Iraq report ‘was not sexed-up’

BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office did not doctor an intelligence report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in order to exaggerate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, a lawmaker involved in an official probe said yesterday.

Eric Illsley, part of a parliamentary committee investigating the government’s use of intelligence material to justify war in Iraq, said he was satisfied that Blair’s communications chief, Alastair Campbell, had not tampered with the dossier.

But fellow committee member John Maples said his colleague’s remarks were premature, adding the verdict may come soon.

“We haven’t come to any conclusions at all yet,” he told the BBC.

In part, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee is investigating a BBC report that Blair aides redrafted a file to include claims that Saddam could launch chemical and biological weapons at 45 minutes’ notice.

BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan said intelligence officials were unhappy with the “sexed-up” report and believed the 45-minute notice data was from an unreliable source, and incorrect.

The story prompted accusations that the government had exaggerated the scale of the Iraqi weapons threat to convince sceptical lawmakers of the necessity of war.

Government relations with the BBC have slumped to their lowest level in years, with Campbell and the corporation’s director of news, Richard Sambrook, firing venomous open letters at each other.

In the latest twist, Illsley, of Blair’s Labour Party, said yesterday that he and other committee members were satisfied the dossier was compiled by intelligence chiefs.

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