BBC stands firm

Board backs Dyke in Iraq flap

This article was updated at 6:50 p.m.

LONDON — The BBC board of governors put its weight behind director general Greg Dyke and his news team Sunday in the Iraq dossier row with the U.K. government.

The BBC has come under heavy attack for its allegation that the government and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s communications chief Alistair Campbell deliberately “sexed up” a dossier by inserting claims that Saddam Hussein could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes.

The 11 governors questioned Dyke and director of news Richard Sambrook and concluded that there were “exceptional circumstances” surrounding the report by defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan that aired on Radio 4’s “Today” program on May 29.

They also found that the BBC’s coverage of the war had been “entirely impartial.”

However, the governors said the “Today” program should have kept a clearer account of its dealings with the Ministry of Defense and also should have asked the prime minister’s press office for a response before the broadcast rather than carrying denials by a defense minister following the report.

“The BBC has never accused the prime minister of lying, or of seeking to take Britain into war under misleading or false pretenses,” said a statement from the governors. “The BBC did not have an agenda in its war coverage, nor does it now have any agenda which questions the integrity of the prime minister.”

The Beeb also believes that Monday’s report from the Foreign Affairs Committee — which has been investigating whether the government misled Parliament, and therefore the public, on the threat from Iraq — justified the “Today” report.

The committee unanimously decided that Campbell did not include the “45 minutes” claim in the dossier but added that it “did not warrant the prominence” given to it in the dossier because it was based on a “single uncorroborated source.”

It was divided, however, on the role Campbell played in compiling the dossier. Campbell chaired the planning meeting that drew up the document, a role the committee felt was the responsibility of an intelligence chief.

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