Campbell 'asked for changes to Iraq dossier'

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Indy Politics

Alastair Campbell made 11 suggestions and queries about the dossier in which the Government is alleged to have exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in the run-up to war in Iraq, according to a leaked letter.

The Prime Minister's director of communications and strategy was writing to the committee of MPs investigating claims the document was "sexed up" to bolster the case for war. A copy of the letter, published in today's Guardian, said Mr Campbell posed questions and proposed alterations to the dossier. Mr Campbell's suggestions will be a major focus for the Commons foreign affairs committee as it meets today to finalise its report on the affair, due to be published on Monday.

The committee is thought to be split over the report. Labour members are likely to back Mr Campbell's denials, while opposition MPs are anxious to see further evidence of the intelligence drafts which led to the dossier, which was published in September.

Mr Campbell's letter, written with the consent of John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), reveals that six of his proposed changes were accepted, one was already under way but four were not taken up.

In the letter, Mr Campbell repeated his insistence that the dossier's reference to weapons being deployed "within 45 minutes" was present in the first draft sent to him on 10 September 10. He wrote: "The chairman of the JIC has also confirmed and authorised me to say that it reflected recent intelligence already in the JIC's classified assessment and that I played no part in the decision to include the intelligence in the dossier."

Mr Campbell wrote that he suggested the phrase "vivid and horrifying" in the human rights section was not required. The words were removed.

He suggested further attention be given to Iraq's concealment of its weapons and asked why the report said that Iraq had only sought to secure uranium. He was told the intelligence did not suggest that Iraq had succeeded in obtaining the material.

A spokesman for No 10 said last night: "Alastair sent a fairly lengthy letter on Friday which answered the questions put to him by the clerk of the committee and did so with the agreement of the chairman of the JIC."