'Dodgy dossier' was 'wrong', its author says

Ian Griggs,Brian Brady
Sunday 17 February 2008 01:00
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The government official who wrote the first draft of the "dodgy dossier" that helped propel Britain into war in Iraq today admits, "We were wrong."

John Williams, a former Foreign Office aide, said last night that publication of his document would expose how members of Tony Blair's team were locked in a mindset that made military action inevitable.

On Wednesday, ministers will hit a deadline for publishing the 2002 document, after years of resistance.

The Williams draft was written in September 2002, only days after Mr Blair, then Prime Minister, announced that the Government would publish a dossier of intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein threatened the world with his weapons.

The draft was not disclosed at the Hutton inquiry into the death in 2003 of the former Iraq arms inspector David Kelly. The scientist had suggested the dossier was exaggerated to justify the UK joining the 2003 invasion.

Mr Williams, press secretary to three foreign secretaries, said that the dossier would show how wrong the Blair team was about Saddam's alleged possession of WMD. Mr Williams said: "The argument was that here was someone who had been known to possess illegal weapons. We regarded him as a threat." He added: "The document will show the mindset that everyone had. It was wrong and we know that now."

The Government has yet to decide whether to publish the draft dossier, in line with an information tribunal judgment last month.

Ministers have insisted that the dossier was entirely the work of intelligence agencies, but Mr Williams's role remains unclear. Mr Williams denies that he came up with the claim that Saddam could have launched a WMD strike within 45 minutes.

He said: "I was a member of the team looking at it.... I used the available information to write it, but [intelligence chief] John Scarlett was then commissioned to write it instead."

Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, said it was time the British people were told the truth: "The issue is how much the decision was based on intelligence, and how much [it was] a product of manipulation in Downing Street."

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