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Last Updated: Monday, 18 August, 2003, 19:37 GMT 20:37 UK
Dossier 'failed to show Iraq threat'
Dr David Kelly, against a background of 10 Downing Street door.
Tony Blair's most senior aide told intelligence chiefs their draft dossier failed to demonstrate "an imminent threat" from Iraq, the Hutton inquiry has heard.

The comment, in an e-mail from Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell, was written just one week before the controversial dossier on Iraqi weapons was published on 24 September last year.

Mr Powell wrote that the dossier "does not demonstrate he (Saddam Hussein) has the motive to attack his neighbours, let alone the West".

The e-mail was sent to senior figures including chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, Mr Blair's communications chief Alastair Campbell and the then foreign affairs adviser Sir David Manning.

Other key points to emerge on the fifth day of Lord Hutton's inquiry into the death of government scientist Dr David Kelly were:

  • Documents showed it had been decided by 5 September to restructure the dossier "as per TB's discussion" - an apparent reference to the prime minister

  • A Downing Street spokesman described the row with the BBC over the Iraq dossier as a "game of chicken"

  • Mr Powell said Number 10 had not considered the pressure that Dr Kelly would face after he was named

  • The head of the Ministry of Defence press office said it was the ministry which made the decision to confirm Dr Kelly's name

  • Sir David Manning said BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's report "was seen as a pretty direct attack on the integrity of the prime minister".

In his 17 September e-mail Mr Powell said: "The dossier is good and convincing for those who are prepared to be convinced."

But he warned that it did "nothing to demonstrate a threat, let alone an imminent threat from Saddam".

Jonathan Powell

Mr Powell said that while it showed Saddam Hussein had the means to launch an attack, it did not demonstrate that he had a motive.

"We will need to make it clear in launching the document that we do not claim that we have evidence that he is an imminent threat," Mr Powell said.

Nowhere in the 24 September dossier does the word "imminent" appear.

But Mr Blair wrote in his foreward: "I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current, that [Saddam] has made progress on WMD and that he has to be stopped."

'Chicken'

Earlier the inquiry heard that Downing Street spokesman Tom Kelly described the row with the BBC over the Iraq dossier as a "game of chicken".

"The only way they [the BBC] will shift is if they see the screw tightening," he noted.

It was put to Mr Powell that Dr Kelly coming forward to tell his bosses he had met a BBC journalist was therefore "a happy coincidence".

But Mr Powell said the spokesman had been trying to offer the BBC an opportunity to "climb down" in a "dignified way".

HUTTON INQUIRY
Set up after apparent suicide of Dr David Kelly in July
Dr Kelly was government expert in Iraq weapons programmes
He was named as source of controversial BBC report
Report alleged government had 'sexed up' a dossier on Iraq's weapons capability
Government denies the allegations

The strategy of naming Dr Kelly also came under the inquiry's scrutiny on Monday.

Dr Kelly died within three days of giving evidence to two committees of MPs probing the claim that the government had misused intelligence material in the run-up to war with Iraq.

Mr Powell said it was decided that the Foreign Affairs Committee should be told Dr Kelly had come forward because "we might be accused of covering things up if this salient piece of information was not made available".

He had been named publicly 36 hours after the MoD issued a press release stating that an official had come forward to admit meeting Mr Gilligan.

Although the MoD issued that press release, Mr Powell revealed that he and the prime minister's press chief Alastair Campbell were among those who helped draft it.

THIS WEEK'S WITNESSES
Monday: Pam Teare, Ministry of Defence Press Office head; Jonathan Powell, Number 10 chief of staff; David Manning, Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser
Tuesday: David Manning continued; Alastair Campbell, Number 10 communication director
Wednesday: Sir Kevin Tebbit, MoD permanent secretary; Godric Smith and Tom Kelly, prime minister's official spokesmen
Thursday: Newspaper journalists Nick Rufford, James Blitz, Richard Norton-Taylor, Tom Baldwin; Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Donald Anderson; inquiry secretary Lee Hughes

The first witness before the Inquiry on Monday was Pam Teare, head of the MoD press office, who outlined her view of events leading up to Dr Kelly's name becoming known.

Her evidence showed frequent discussions with Downing Street after Dr Kelly came forward, but she added that the decision to confirm Dr Kelly's identity to journalists was taken at the MoD.

She said the naming policy was decided at a meeting between her and the deputy chief of defence intelligence Martin Howard, and approved by MoD permanent secretary Kevin Tebbit.

She said that one of the reasons for confirming Dr Kelly's identity was to stop other people wrongly being suspected as the BBC's mole.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Nicholas Witchell
"Tomorrow... Alistair Campbell will enter the witness box"



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