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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Campbell defends dossier role
Alastair Campbell arriving at the Hutton inquiry on Tuesday
Mr Campbell is a key witness

Alastair Campbell has said he played no part in a government dossier's claim that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

In testimony to the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, Tony Blair's press chief said the credibility of the dossier outlining the threat posed by Saddam Hussein rested on it being the work of intelligence officials.

And Mr Campbell insisted intelligence chiefs remained in charge of the process despite the inquiry seeing a number of e-mails from Downing Street staff raising issues and making suggestions about the dossier's content.

If there were any stomach churning moments of horror for Mr Campbell, he hid them well

Mr Campbell has always denied he or anyone in Downing Street "sexed up" last September's dossier on Iraq's weapons to help make the case for war.

Dr Kelly was the source for a story by reporter Andrew Gilligan which made that claim on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The communications director's evidence is a key part in building a picture of the events leading up to the apparent suicide of government scientist Dr Kelly last month.

Other key points include:

  • Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon's initial reaction to Dr Kelly admitting his contacts with Mr Gilligan was that it was "a serious disciplinary matter and had clearly caused the government considerable difficulty and embarrassment"

  • Mr Campbell revealed his fury at the BBC's answer to his complaints: "I felt my response was angry, and probably too angry"

  • An original dossier was dropped in Easter 2002 as it was "not terribly good" and Mr Blair wanted to calm the issue

  • In September 2002 the prime minister now wanted a dossier produced as he wanted the public to realise Iraq's "unique threat"

  • Mr Campbell's diary refers to the "ghastly Gilligan story" saying "it was grim. Grim for me and grim for TB (Tony Blair) and there is huge stuff about trust"

  • He felt his almost unprecedented decision to face public questioning by MPs helped to "open up a flank" on the BBC and force it to defend itself in public.

  • Former BBC director general John Birt, now a Downing Street policy adviser, had told Mr Campbell the whole thing was terrible for the BBC, because everybody knew the story was wrong

Earlier, the inquiry heard how some Number 10 officials had voiced concerns last September that the dossier preparations had a "long way to go" and that drafts were muddled.

Easter 2002: Original dossier on Iraq and three other countries dropped
3 September: Tony Blair announces there will be a dossier on the threat from Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
5 September: Campbell's first meeting about the dossier
9 September: Campbell tells intelligence chief John Scarlett he must be "100% happy" with dossier
11 September: Tony Blair sees dossier for first time
12 September: Senior intelligence officers show new material "too secret" to go into the dossier
16 September: Draft of Blair's foreword ready
17 September: Number 10 chief of staff Jonathan Powell warns that must make clear Iraq cannot attack UK now
24 September: Dossier published

Just a week before the dossier's publication, Downing Street chief of staff Jonathan Powell wrote in an email: "We need to do more to back up assertions... You need to make it clear that Saddam could not attack us at the moment."

Mr Campbell, who braved a noisy anti-war protest on his way into the central London hearing, said such points were taken on board.

He told the inquiry he had first become aware of the specific dossier in August and had first seen a draft on 5 September at a meeting he had chaired on the proposed dossier.

He said he did not know whether that draft contained the 45 minutes claim - saying the first time he saw it was in the draft on 10 September.

But he "had no input, output, influence upon them whatsoever at any stage" in the drafting of or inclusion of the 45 minutes claim.

Amid dossier preparations, an offer from the Foreign Office's press chief to write the dossier had been rejected by John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, who took charge of writing the dossier.

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

When newspaper reports had suggested some were unhappy over the dossier, Mr Scarlett had told him: "There may well be people down the ranks who are unhappy with this but you have to know this is not the view of people at the top."

Mr Campbell told Mr Scarlett that he, as the intelligence chief, had to be "100% happy" with the dossier.

In a meeting on 11 September, he had suggested Mr Scarlett should make the dossier "drier" and "cut the rhetoric".

"I think there were areas where the language was too colourful," he said. "I also said the more intelligence-based it was, the better."

The BBC's George Eykyn
"Mr Campbell said he had felt a mounting sense of anger and frustration at the BBC"

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