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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Dyke accuses Blair over Iraq war
Greg Dyke
Greg Dyke has accused Tony Blair of bullying the BBC
The BBC's former director general Greg Dyke has made a scathing attack on Downing Street over the Iraq war and its treatment of the BBC.

In the Mail on Sunday, Mr Dyke accuses Tony Blair of either being incompetent or lying to Parliament about the war in Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

It comes as Mr Dyke publishes his memoirs, in which he claims the prime minister tried to bully the BBC.

Downing Street refused to comment in detail on the claims in Mr Dyke's book.

What is really frightening is that Blair still doesn't believe or understand that what he did was fundamentally wrong
Greg Dyke
Former BBC director general

A spokesman said: "Greg Dyke is entitled to his view. We don't share it. There have already been four thorough inquiries and we have nothing to add."

Mr Dyke was forced to resign in January after the Hutton report concluded the BBC had been wrong to claim the government "sexed up" its dossier on Iraq's weapons.

In his book Inside Story, serialised in The Observer and the Mail on Sunday, Mr Dyke attacks Mr Blair personally over the affair.

He writes: "He was either incompetent and took Britain to war on a misunderstanding or he lied when he told the House of Commons he didn't know what the 45-minute claim meant."

He goes on: "We were all duped. What is really frightening is that Blair still doesn't believe or understand that what he did was fundamentally wrong."

Campbell 'obsessed'

Mr Dyke claims the prime minister "unleashed the dogs" on the BBC after it was heavily criticised by Lord Hutton.

He accuses Mr Blair of reneging on an earlier promise that no heads should roll at the corporation over the row.

He also says Mr Blair forced his communications director Alastair Campbell to leave Downing Street because he was "out of control" and "obsessed" with his battle to beat the BBC.

Mr Dyke publishes letters from Mr Blair which he claims show how the government tried to "bully" the BBC into changing its coverage in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Andrew Gilligan
Andrew Gilligan said the BBC risked being "cowed" by criticism

In one letter sent to former chairman of the BBC board of governors Gavyn Davies, Mr Blair says: "It seems to me there has been a real breakdown of the separation of news and comment."

Mr Dyke says the six governors still on the board who forced him to resign should quit themselves, saying they panicked "like frightened rabbits" under pressure from Downing Street.

The BBC's media correspondent Nick Higham said the prime minister could point to the Hutton and Butler inquiries, both of which cleared him.

And former Downing Street advisor Tim Allan said he was not impressed by Mr Dyke's attack on the government or by his defence of the BBC's reporting.

'Take responsibility'

He said: "The facts are that they broadcast a story that wasn't true.

"He [Greg Dyke] defended it without even the most basic editorial checks and, even now, he's failing to face up to his responsibilities.

"It was him that led the BBC into the biggest crisis in its history. He needs to take his responsibility seriously."

Andrew Gilligan, whose claim in a BBC Radio 4 report that the government knew its dossier on Iraq was wrong sparked the row, spoke out earlier on Saturday.

He strongly criticised the government, the BBC's governors and Lord Hutton in a speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Mr Gilligan criticised the "over-reaction" of BBC governors, who "turned a crisis into a disaster" by sacking Greg Dyke.

He warned the BBC was in danger of being "cowed" as a result of the Hutton report's criticism.

Lord Hutton's inquiry was prompted by the suicide of Dr David Kelly, the source for Mr Gilligan's report.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nick Higham
"Andrew Gilligan has been attacking Tony Blair in very similar terms"



SEE ALSO:
Gilligan fights back over Hutton
28 Aug 04  |  Entertainment
The BBC's final line under Hutton
22 Jul 04  |  Entertainment
Butler shows BBC was right - Dyke
14 Jul 04  |  Politics
At-a-glance: Butler report
14 Jul 04  |  Politics
Dyke criticises BBC governors
19 Apr 04  |  Entertainment


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