Iraq dossier 'must be published'

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The Foreign Office has been ordered to publish an early draft of the controversial dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

An information tribunal has ruled that the unpublished document, which was a precursor to the final dossier on Iraq's alleged possession of WMDs, must be made public.

The final document, which was issued by then prime minister Tony Blair in September 2002, was at the centre of a government scandal after accusations that the dossier had been 'sexed up' in order to encourage support for an invasion of Iraq.

Weapons expert Dr David Kelly was also found dead shortly after he was named as a media source for a documentary into the composition and collection of the information contained in the papers.

On February 9th 2005, a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act by Christopher Ames, a researcher, to view the draft.

But the Foreign Office had previously refused to allow the document to be viewed and may yet appeal to the High Court in order to avoid having to relinquish its confidentiality.

Critics of the process used to put together the dossier point to allegations, originally made by the BBC, that government spin doctors added in a claim that then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had the ability to launch WMDs within 45 minutes.

This was seen as one of the crux issues in the debate over whether military action was used against Hussein and Iraq in 2003.

The Hutton report into the circumstances surrounding Dr Kelly's death criticised the actions of the BBC in producing a documentary in which he was named.

But many feel the full story behind the creation of the dossier is yet to be heard because secrecy still remains over the drafting process of the document.

In handing down its decision on the publication of what is known as 'the Williams draft', the information tribunal said there is "a strong public interest in disclosure".

"We do not accept that we should, in effect, treat the Hutton Report as the final word on the subject," the tribunal decision continues.

"Information has been placed before us, which was not before Lord Hutton, which may lead to questions as to whether the Williams' draft in fact played a greater part in influencing the drafting of the dossier than has previously been supposed."

The tribunal also suggested that the handwriting of two different individuals was found on the document, "suggesting that at least one person other than the author had reviewed and commented on it".
© Adfero Ltd
23 January 2008 19:27 GMT

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