Saturday, Jul 05, 2003
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By Hasan Suroor
The cross-party Foreign Affairs Select Committee's report, to be published on Monday, is expected to absolve the Prime Minister's close aide, Alastair Campbell, of the specific charge that he "sexed up'' a key official intelligence dossier by including in it alarming details of the threat from the Saddam Hussein regime against the wishes of the intelligence community.
The charge, made by the BBC in a report by its defence correspondent on May 29, had infuriated Downing Street and Mr. Campbell appeared before the committee to demand an apology from the corporation accusing it of telling `lies' to defame the Government.
The specific charge was that Mr. Campbell forced the intelligence services to include in the dossier the claim that the Saddam regime had the capacity to deploy weapons of mass destruction at 45-minutes' notice. The claim, said to be based on an uncorroborated source, proved crucial in swinging MPs' opinion in favour of a war.
The BBC, which has stood by its story, was under pressure today as leaks from the inquiry committee's report caught the headlines. While still publicly defending its correspondent, the BBC was reported to have ordered an internal inquiry. In the past two days, there has been an attempt by the corporation to row back by emphasising the broad thrust of its report that the intelligence community was uneasy about the way information was used by the government to bolster its case for war.
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