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U.K. gov’t spin-doctor quits

Campbell to return to journalism

LONDON – In a surprise move, Alastair Campbell, the U.K. government’s director of communications, handed in his resignation Friday mid-way through the Hutton inquiry into the government row over the BBC’s report on the “sexed-up” Iraq dossier.

Campbell, who was expected to step down once the Hutton inquiry had drawn to a close in September, will hand over to his successor, who will be announced shortly. Campbell, a former Daily Mirror journalist, plans to return to a career in journalism.

The government spin-doctor was accused by BBC defense correspondent Andrew Gilligan of beefing up a dossier with a claim that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. He was also blamed by BBC chairman Gavyn Davies of “reigniting” the dispute between the government and the pubcaster.

So far, Campbell’s claims that he did not “sex up” the dossier have been backed up by John Scarlett, the head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, the division responsible for compiling the dossier.

In separate but related news, Janice Kelly, widow of Iraq weapons expert David Kelly, has asked Judge Lord Hutton if she can give evidence to the Hutton inquiry on Monday via video link from her home in Oxfordshire.

Dr Kelly’s daughter, Rachel and other family members and friends are also due to give evidence on Monday.