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Beeb report blasted

Intelligence chief gives inquiry an earful

LONDON — BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan’s report of a “sexed up” government dossier on Iraq’s weapons capability was “completely untrue,” U.K. intelligence chief John Scarlett said Tuesday in day nine of the London high court Hutton inquiry looking into evidence for and against the Beeb report.

Scarlett, chairman of the joint intelligence committee that was in charge of the dossier, saida claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes came in a report dated Aug. 30 last year from a reliable military source in Iraq.

He denied it was added at the government’s request to the Sept. 24 dossier, contrary to the claim by Gilligan on Radio 4’s “Today” program.

“I knew immediately that (Gilligan’s report) was completely untrue. Nobody was in a better position than I was to know that, and I said so,” he asserted.

Scarlett told the inquiry that he was happy with the preparation of the dossier and had freedom to accept or reject suggestions from Alastair Campbell, the government’s head of communication, who Gilligan accused of adding the 45-minute claim.

“It was the case, and remains the case, that all my colleagues on the (Joint Intelligence Committee) were completely supportive for that statement to be issued,” he continued.

However, he added: “I was aware that, at a working level and maybe higher, there were worries within the intelligence community about the precedent that would be set by a document of this kind.” Such reports are normally confirmed by two sources, rather than one.

Last week, the inquiry heard evidence from Gilligan and other BBC reporters that government weapons expert David Kelly had briefed them on the dossier and was worried about the 45-minute claim.

Kelly committed suicide after becoming embroiled in the row between the government and the BBC.

Prime Minister Tony Blair will appear before the inquiry Thursday. He is expected to come under heavy questioning as weapons of mass destruction have yet to be found in Iraq.

(Reuters contributed to this report.)