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Downing Street 'told spy chiefs to rewrite dossier six times'
By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent
(Filed: 06/06/2003)

Intelligence chiefs were asked to rewrite the controversial dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction at least six times, it was claimed yesterday.

A source told the BBC that at one point the Prime Minister was personally involved in the decision to get the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) to redraft the document.

The revelation undermined Downing Street's attempts to draw a line under the affair and coincided with a call by Lord Healey for Tony Blair to resign if weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq.

On Wednesday, in a combative Commons performance, the Prime Minister strongly denied putting pressure on the JIC to strengthen its assessment of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Only 11 Labour MPs voted for an Opposition motion calling for an independent inquiry into the affair.

But yesterday the BBC quoted "a source close to British intelligence" making a new claim about the events leading up to the publication of the Government dossier Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction last September.

According to the BBC's source, Downing Street returned draft versions of the dossier to JIC "six to eight times".

The new allegation appears to confirm the claim, originally reported by Andrew Gilligan on Radio 4's Today programme, that the intelligence services were asked to "sex up" the dossier to make the threat posed by Saddam appear more serious.

Yesterday's development also suggests that members of the intelligence services have not been intimidated by complaints about leaking and that the Government's attack on the behaviour of "rogue elements" among them may have backfired.

Downing Street refused to comment directly on the BBC's report. "We would not offer a running commentary on the drafting of documents," a spokesman said.

But he repeated the Government's insistence that the dossier was "entirely the work of the intelligence services" and that the idea that they were put under pressure to deliver a particular verdict was "entirely false".

Lord Healey, the former chancellor and deputy Labour leader, yesterday said the issue was so serious that Mr Blair could be forced to stand down.

Writing in the Independent, Lord Healey said: "If he is found out to have been wrong about those weapons - or worse, that he knowingly made false statements - I believe he should be replaced as leader. I suspect many in the party would agree."

Almost half of Labour backbenchers believe that Mr Blair went too far in talking about weapons of mass destruction, a BBC survey suggested yesterday. Ninety-three MPs took part and 41 said Mr Blair exaggerated the threat.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, renewed his call for an independent inquiry into the handling of intelligence about Saddam.

"My concern is that there is a culture in this Government that essentially spins, deceives and ultimately, at times, lies about what they are doing," he said.

"That affects the ability of the Government subsequently to be able to take decisions and persuade the British people this is right."

5 June 2003: Labour 'doctored' second dossier on WMDs
4 June 2003: Blair to co-operate with Iraq weapons inquiry
3 June 2003: Where's the proof that I misled the public, Blair asks his critics
1 June 2003: Short: 'Blair duped us all along. We were misled. We were deceived'

Previous story: Blix challenges war leaders on WMDs
Next story: Saddam's daughters can apply for asylum

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External links  
 
10 Downing Street
 
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - Foreign & Commonwealth Office
 
Weapons of self-destruction [5 Jun '03] - Spiked Online