Thu, Jul 10, 2003 - Page 1 News List

New admission muddies water in Blair-BBC row

AP , LONDON

A serious dispute between the government and the BBC grew more complex on Tuesday when a defense staffer said he had an unauthorized meeting with a BBC reporter whose story is the source of the argument.

Just as it appeared likely the row would subside, at least publicly, the Ministry of Defense on Tuesday evening put forward the account of an anonymous official who might, possibly, be the source of the disputed report.

The BBC then said he probably wasn't the source, but suggested that if he were, he wouldn't necessarily be telling the ministry the same thing he told the reporter.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's office at 10 Downing St. has repeatedly demanded an apology from the BBC for a report quoting a single anonymous intelligence source as saying a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been "sexed up" on the orders of Blair aide Alastair Campbell.

The threat of Iraqi weapons was Blair's main argument for war against Iraq.

A furious Campbell, Blair's communications chief, forcefully denied the allegation and on Monday he was cleared by a parliamentary committee looking into the decisions that led Britain into war.

The BBC has insisted it was right to broadcast the story by reporter Andrew Gilligan.

Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday denied that he misled lawmakers about intelligence contained in the dossier which was published earlier in the year.

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