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Blair dismisses ex-spy chief's assault on Iraq weapons dossier

PLA Daily 2004-02-06

LONDON, Feb. 4 (Xinhuanet) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday dismissed a fresh attack on the government's Sept. 2002 Iraq dossier claiming Saddam Hussein was able to deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes.

Brian Jones, a former section head at the Defense Intelligence Staff (DIS) but now retired, told the Independent newspaper Wednesday the DIS' "unified view" on assessments of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons was over-ruled by other intelligence agency chiefs and the dossier they produced was consequently misleading.

Jones' remarks came in the wake of publication of the Hutton Report last week which concluded that Downing Street had not inserted material in the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence services.

"In my view, the expert intelligence analysts of the DIS were overruled in the preparation of the dossier... resulting in a presentation that was misleading about Iraq's capabilities," Joneswrote in the newspaper.

Blair then told the lawmakers that Jones' concerns were heard by his superiors and were not taken up, while repeating his refusal to allow the new probe to examine if his decisions on going to war was right or not.

However, he appeared to concede that the inquiry into prewar Iraqi intelligence would be allowed to look at the way government used the intelligence it received, not just its accuracy.

"It is certainly not going to address the issue of whether it was right to go to war or not," Blair told the lawmakers.

"But of course it is important that it looks at the use of the intelligence, the gathering of it, the evaluation -- all of that, it can be done," he said.

Also on Wednesday, main opposition Conservative Party leader Michael Howard voiced his support for Jones' call for the secret intelligence to be published.

Such a move could alter his decision to accept Lord Hutton's conclusions, he suggested.

"Of course, if new evidence becomes available which casts doubt on the Hutton findings then it would be foolish not to take that new evidence into account," Howard told BBC Radio 4's Today program.

On behalf of Britain's second largest opposition party, the Liberal Democrats, foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell saidJones was amongst those set to dash the government's determinationthat the new inquiry should not be a re-run of the Hutton hearings.

"The government hopes this story will lie down. Every time it tries to drive a stake into it, the story just jumps up again," he told the BBC radio.

The Liberal Democrats are refusing to take part in the latest inquiry on the grounds that it will not consider the political judgments that were made on the intelligence.

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