The report, part of which has been seen by The Independent, concludes there is no evidence to tie the factory or its owner, Salah Idris,a Saudi businessman, to terrorism. The US, which received backing for the strike from Britain, said the plant was making chemical weapons and had links to Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born renegade America blames for last year's African embassy bombings. The report concludes the US information was incorrect, out of date or based on false inferences.
The inquiry was carried out for Mr Idris' lawyers by the London office of Kroll Associates, the New York investigators to whom Kuwait turned after the Gulf War to seek President Saddam Hussein's overseas assets. Many of Kroll's employees are former US and British officials.
The missile strike was launched while President Bill Clinton was being investigated for perjury and obstruction of justice, leading to questions about its timing and motives.
Tony Blair, alone among Western leaders, gave President Clinton his public backing, saying: "A country such as the US, when its citizens are put under attack, must have the right to defend themselves, and we support our allies in that cause."
Last night, the Foreign Office stance remained unchanged. A spokesman said: "We do not comment on reports we have not seen, but the US told us at the time that they had compelling evidence and we have no reason not to believe it."
But Tony Benn, Labour MP for Chesterfield, said the Americans now realised the factory was not a military installation and the British should recognise that too. "Blair is simply Clinton's mouthpiece. I just hope to God that we don't start repeating the mistake against the Serbs," he said.
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