Downing Street 'told spy chiefs
to rewrite dossier six times'
Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent
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
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
"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."
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