Iraq weapons inquiry hampered by lack of documents, says MP

Tony Blair's refusal to release key intelligence documents will prevent a committee of MPs from delivering a verdict on claims that the Government exaggerated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, a senior member said yesterday.

John Maples, a Conservative member of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: "We really can't come to any absolutely definitive conclusions on the whole of this matter without seeing all of the papers, which we haven't seen and which the Government has made clear it's not going to show to us."

He called for MPs to be shown early drafts of documents which went on to form the Government's two controversial dossiers on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Members of the committee met for more than three and a half hours behind closed doors yesterday as they went through an early draft of their report on the affair, due to be published on Monday.

Ben Bradshaw, an Environment minister and former BBC reporter, sent a fresh letter to the corporation claiming it broke its own guidelines when it broadcast Andrew Gilligan's report on claims that Number 10 had "sexed up" the September dossier.

Meanwhile, 16 Labour backbenchers who supported the Government over the war in Iraq said weapons of mass destruction were not the only justification for war.

In a letter to the press, the MPs, including the former cabinet "enforcer" Jack Cunningham, the Culture Committee chairman, Gerald Kaufman, and the Foreign Affairs Committee member Gisela Stuart, said that removing Saddam Hussein was "not only morally justified, it has also provided an opportunity to resolve some of the most intractable problems of the Middle East".

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