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Hoon accused of giving misleading evidence on Iraq dossier
September 10, 2003 21:45 IST
Last Updated: September 10, 2003 21:57 IST
A parliamentary committee has accused British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon of giving 'misleading' evidence during its inquiry on the government's controversial Iraq dossier, according to media reports.
The Evening Standard said the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report, which is due to be released on Thursday, has concluded that the claim Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons in 45 minutes should not have been included in the dossier.
It also reportedly clears Alastair Campbell, the then communications chief of Blair, of inserting the claim against the wishes of intelligence agencies.
According to the eveninger, the report accused Hoon of ignoring advice from senior civil servants when he denied to the ISC that Defence Intelligence Staff were unhappy with the dossier.
The Committee, according to the report, was of the view that Hoon's actions were 'misleading' and 'unhelpful'.
The Committee's report was passed to Downing Street on Tuesday for Prime Minister Tony Blair to check before it is published on Thursday.
The report is expected to endorse the way the dossier was produced, saying it was handled properly by both Downing Street and John Scarlett, the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee who had ownership of it.
In the House of Commons, an MP sought to know whether the prime minister would sack Hoon if the newspaper's report were true.
He accused senior Downing Street officials of spinning their version of the ISC report, adding: "You can get rid of Alastair Campbell and even the defence secretary but the lying and the spinning won't stop until you get rid of this prime minister."
Blair denied that the report had been leaked by anyone in Downing Street and paid tribute to Hoon, saying that under him British armed forces had won a 'magnificent victory' in Iraq and were now playing a 'heroic' role in the rebuilding of Iraq.
Blair said the opposition Tory leadership was in the forefront in asking the government to wage a war to dislodge Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and it was unfair on their part to now show accusing fingers at the government.