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Last Updated: Saturday, 19 July, 2003, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Q&A: The Iraq weapons row
The row over intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war continues to run. Here BBC News Online explains what the issue is all about.

What are the dossiers at the heart of the row?

Amid the fevered speculation in the build-up to war in Iraq, the government last September produced its long-awaited dossier of evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Among its claims - as highlighted in Mr Blair's foreword - was that Saddam Hussein's "military planning allows for some of the weapons of mass destruction to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them".

A second dossier - known as the "dodgy dossier" because of the way it plagiarised an academic thesis, was published in February.

The concerns prompted by that document intensified questions about the government's case for war and about the accuracy of claims made in the September dossier.

And what sparked the row with the BBC?

A senior official said to have been involved in drawing up the September dossier told BBC Radio 4's Today programme defence correspondent Andrew Gilligan that the September document was rewritten at the behest of Downing Street to make it "sexier".

The source said the 45 minutes claim was a "classic example" of how uncorroborated evidence was given undue prominence - especially as it came from only one source.

He said: "That information wasn't in the original draft. It was included in the dossier against our wishes because it wasn't reliable."

Mr Gilligan says three other people "in or connected with the intelligence community" have voiced concern to him over the past six months about misuse of intelligence material by Downing Street.

Why did these claims matter?

Tony Blair's justification for going to war with Iraq was the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

What was the government's reaction to the BBC story?

Number 10 itself said "not one word of the dossier was not entirely the work of the intelligence agencies".

Tony Blair said it was "absurd" to claim that Downing Street had pressured the security services to "invent" evidence.

Critics say the government is missing the point - that some evidence was hyped up or highlighted more than it should have been.

A succession of ministers have denied this was the case and Tony Blair's communications director Alastair Campbell is demanding an apology from the BBC over the claims.

What have the intelligence services had to say?

John Scarlett, head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which oversees security service reports for the government, has let it be known he had no bust up with Downing Street over the dossier.

But the BBC stands by its source and says it was right to publish his concerns.

What have MPs said about the furore?

The Commons foreign affairs committee has been quizzing ministers, officials and journalists in public over the past month and has now published its report.

It exonerated Mr Campbell of trying to exert "improper influence" - although five committee members complained they could not give a definitive judgement without seeing all the papers and all the witnesses.

But the committee was united in criticising the "dodgy dossier" and in saying the 45-minute claim was given undue emphasis.

The jury is still out on whether the UK's intelligence about Iraq's weapons was accurate, it said.

Was that the end of the foreign affairs committee's inquiries?

No, the committee later questioned David Kelly, the government weapons adviser named by the government as the possible source for the MoD story.

Dr Kelly, whose body has been found, said he had met Mr Gilligan but was not his main source.

The committee later questioned the BBC correspondent again in private and its chairman, Donald Anderson, called him an "unreliable" witness who was changing his story.

Both the BBC and Mr Gilligan denied that claim, saying there had been consistency throughout.

Are there any other inquiries into the row?

Another inquiry is being conducted by the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is appointed by the prime minister and has wide-ranging access to top secret intelligence reports and meets behind closed doors.

It reports to Mr Blair and the government can delete "sensitive intelligence material" from the committee's reports before they go public.

And what about an independent judicial inquiry?

Opposition MPs have been calling for an independent inquiry into the overall question of the government's use of intelligence material in its preparation of the two dossiers used to state the case for going to war.

Now the government says there will be a judicial inquiry, but it will deal only with the circumstances leading up to the death of David Kelly, and will not be a wide-ranging investigation into the run-up to the war.

It will be headed by a law lord - Lord Hutton - and it is expected to take a matter of weeks, not months.




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