Tony Blair today denied authorising the identification of David Kelly as the source for the BBC story that Downing Street "sexed up" the dossier on Iraq's weapons.
Speaking on a flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong, Mr Blair said: "I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly."
The premier was speaking as pressure mounted on his Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon over the naming of the weapons expert as the Government mole behind the allegation.
It was reported that Mr Hoon personally authorised the media strategy that led to Dr Kelly being named as the prime source for Andrew Gilligan's controversial story.
On board his plane to Hong Kong for the latest leg of his diplomatic mission, Mr Blair said he "emphatically" did not authorise the leak.
But he said the confirmation of Dr Kelly's name was a different matter, adding that the judicial inquiry he had set up would look at all the facts.
Quizzed on why the Government confirmed Dr Kelly's identity, he replied: "That's a completely different matter once the name is out there. The inquiry can look at these things."
Dr Kelly apparently committed suicide last week after he had been publicly identified and subjected to an intense grilling by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.
After his death the BBC confirmed that Dr Kelly had been its source for the report on the Today programme on May 29.
His name appeared in three newspapers - The Guardian, The Times and the Financial Times - on July 10.
The Ministry of Defence press office adopted a policy of refusing to name Dr Kelly directly - but officials said they would confirm his identity if journalists could come up with the scientist's name.
This confirmation strategy was sanctioned by Mr Hoon and the top official in the MoD, permanent secretary Sir Kevin Tebbit, the Financial Times reported today.
The MoD refused to comment on the issue.Reuse content