Sun, Feb 01, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Gilligan's resignation from BBC ends feud

DEFIANT Andrew Gilligan maintained in his resignation statement on Friday that his story about the British government `sexing up' its Iraq dossier was `mostly right'

REUTERS , LONDON

A file photo taken on Aug. 12 shows BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan followed by photographers as he arrives at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

PHOTO: AFP

Journalist Andrew Gilligan, whose story that the British government had "sexed up" the risk from Iraqi weapons was criticized in an inquiry as unfounded, has resigned from the BBC, arguing the report was largely right.

Analysts said Gilligan's resignation might put an end to a feud between the government and the BBC, where two top figures have resigned since the inquiry led by Lord Hutton took the public broadcaster to task.

But some British newspapers yesterday renewed calls for a full inquiry into the intelligence Prime Minister Tony Blair's government drew on to persuade parliament and the public to follow the US to war.

Gilligan maintained in his resignation statement on Friday that his report that the government knowingly exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq to justify the war was mostly right.

"If Lord Hutton had fairly considered the evidence he heard, he would have concluded that most of my story was right. The government did sex up the dossier, transforming possibilities and probabilities into certainties, removing vital caveats," he said.

Hutton's inquiry examined the events leading up to the death of British Iraq weapons expert David Kelly who killed himself in July after being unmasked as the source of Gilligan's report.

In an editorial, the Times newspaper said yesterday there was no "credible reason" for resisting calls to hold a full inquiry into the intelligence the government published on Iraq.

"Tony Blair should realize that the longer he holds out against it, the more damage he will do to the war on terror he has bravely championed," it said.

David Kay, former head of the US hunt for Iraq's banned weapons, said last week he did not believe biological and chemical weapons stockpiles existed, and Condoleezza Rice, US President George W. Bush's national security adviser, has acknowledged there may have been flaws in the intelligence.

Bush himself said on Friday he was seeking clarity over the intelligence reports.

Blair's foes, many commentators and large parts of the public were bewildered at the wholesale bill of health Hutton handed the government compared with his censure of the BBC.

Anti-war campaigners from the Stop the War coalition were due to protest at Blair's Downing Street offices later yesterday over what they describe as Hutton's "whitewash."

Lord Hutton lambasted BBC management procedures as "defective," leading to the resignations of BBC Director General Greg Dyke on Thursday and chairman of the board of governors Gavyn Davies on Wednesday.

The BBC apologized unreservedly on Thursday and British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared an end to the feud.

Professor Stephen Barnet, of the University of Westminster, said: "It would be nice to think that with this final, third resignation that we really could draw a line under the whole thing."

The BBC's acting director general Mark Byford would not comment directly on whether there would be more BBC resignations, telling BBC television late on Friday:

"The BBC this week has faced the resignation of the chairman, the resignation of the director general, the resignation of that reporter.

"Now there is a still process going on involving others. It'll be done as speedily as possible and that's all I can say."

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