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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 June, 2003, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
Row over Iraq dossier deepens
Alastair Campbell
The row shows no sign of abating
The row between Downing Street and the BBC, over claims the government exaggerated intelligence information to gain support for the Iraq war, has intensified.

Fisheries minister Ben Bradshaw said the BBC had failed to answer questions raised by the prime minister's communications director, Alastair Campbell.

Mr Campbell used a live interview on Channel 4 News on Friday to hit back at the corporation after receiving a letter from the head of BBC News, Richard Sambrook, accusing him of intimidatory tactics.

Mr Sambrook says the corporation has nothing to apologise for, and has set out its position in the letter to Mr Campbell.

But Downing Street said on Saturday that it was still waiting for "adequate" answers to its questions and wanted an apology.

Mr Bradshaw said the letter failed to address Downing Street's assertion that the BBC had failed to back up its central allegation.

That was that the government had put information into a dossier on the threat posed by Iraq, knowing it to be untrue.

'Smokescreen'

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Bradshaw said: "What you (the BBC) have in effect done is accuse the government from the prime minister downwards, including the intelligence services, of misleading parliament."

Mr Bradshaw denied the government's attack on the BBC was a smokescreen to divert attention away from the issue of Iraqi weapons.

It is our firm view that No 10 tried to intimidate the BBC in its reporting of events leading up the war and during the course of the war itself
Richard Sambrook

He said: "It's not the government that's been perpetuating this, it's you, and for you now to accuse the government of a smokescreen by challenging the integrity of BBC journalism is astonishing."

Mr Bradshaw said he was confident the government's claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes would be vindicated by the two inquiries which are investigating the issue.

The row was sparked by BBC defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan's report last month, claiming a senior intelligence official told him Downing Street had asked that extra emphasis be given in the dossier to the 45 minute claim.

'Jaw-dropping'

Mr Campbell told Channel 4 News: "The BBC should acknowledge they have made a mistake and then should apologise to the government."

His interview was surprising as earlier No 10 had rejected a request for him to appear.

Weapons inspectors

Mrs Thatcher's former press secretary, Bernard Ingham, told Today: "Either he's flipped his lid, completely gone crackers, or else he's de-mob happy, and if he isn't someone should give him reason to be."

BBC political editor Andrew Marr described the interview as "jaw-dropping", saying the bitterness of the row between the BBC and the government was unprecedented.

Mr Campbell denied any personal agenda against Mr Gilligan.

He censured the BBC for its argument that the intelligence source behind the story was credible, saying there was not a "shred of evidence" to back up the claim.

Two committees

"They now say you can say anything you want on the television because somebody said it to you. It doesn't matter if it's true," said Mr Campbell.

Asked if it was time he resigned now he was "part of the story", Mr Campbell replied: "The reason I am part of the story is that a BBC journalist made an allegation about me".

The Commons foreign affairs select committee has been investigating the use of intelligence by government in considering the case for war.

Mr Campbell's defence was to attack the BBC
William Parsons, UK

Mr Campbell had already told the committee the 45 minutes claim was in the "very first draft" of September's dossier.

The September dossier was one of two issued by the government on Iraq.

The second - the so-called "dodgy dossier" - released this year, plagiarised an academic work.

Mr Campbell apologised to MPs on the select committee earlier this week for that mistake.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti
"Neither Downing Street nor the BBC wants to give an inch in this row"



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