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Last Updated: Friday, 11 July, 2003, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
MPs to quiz weapons official
BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan
The MoD wants Gilligan's source confirmed or denied
The MPs who investigated the run-up to the Iraq war are to interview the government official who admits briefing the BBC correspondent at the centre of the Iraq weapons row.

He will give evidence to the committee next Tuesday.

The BBC is refusing to confirm whether or not David Kelly, a government adviser on weapons, was the source for Andrew Gilligan's story about September's dossier on Iraq.

Mr Gilligan said one of the senior officials in charge of drawing up the dossier had told him the document was "sexed up" at Downing Street's request - a charge vigorously denied by Number 10.

The MoD has since named Mr Kelly as the official it says met Mr Gilligan a week before the controversial story was broadcast.

At a private meeting on Thursday, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee agreed it wanted to interview Dr Kelly.

'Improper'

The foreign affairs select committee this week cleared Downing Street press chief Alastair Campbell of trying to exert "improper influence" on the intelligence services before the dossiers were published.

But the committee complained that undue emphasis was given to a claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

Dr Kelly is currently a government adviser in the Proliferation and Arms Control Secretariat.

He used to head the microbiology unit at the Porton Down chemical defence establishment before playing a leading role in inspecting Iraqi weapons.

Between 1994 and 1999, he was the United Nations' senior adviser on biological warfare in Iraq.

We are concerned that day by day information is being deduced that will allow the source to be identified
BBC spokesman

He also led all the inspections of Russian biological warfare facilities from 1991 to 1994 under a deal agreed between the UK, America and Russia.

An MoD spokesman said: "He is the man who came forward to us. Whether or not he is the source that Gilligan talks about, that is a matter for the BBC to confirm."

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has written to BBC chairman Gavyn Davies asking whether Dr Kelly was the official who briefed Mr Gilligan.

Rejecting that request, a BBC spokesman said: "The BBC will not be making any comments about, or responding to, any claims concerning the identity of Andrew Gilligan's source for his story on the Today programme of May 29.

"We are concerned that day by day information is being deduced that will allow the source to be identified and their safety compromised."

Earlier this week, Mr Hoon offered to identify Dr Kelly to the BBC if the corporation would then confirm that he was the source for the story.

Mr Davies suggested that offer was an "attempt to force" the BBC to break one of the cardinal principles of good journalism - that sources should never be revealed.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"A BBC statement suggests they [the MoD] fingered the wrong man"



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