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Straw calls for BBC apology


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LONDON, England (CNN) -- UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has demanded the BBC apologize for reports that a dossier prepared for the government had been "sexed up" to strengthen its argument for war against Iraq.

But the BBC said it stood by its story that a reference to Iraq's ability to deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes had been inserted into an intelligence document by government aides.

The BBC report said the government's communications chief, Alastair Campbell, was responsible for the September dossier being altered to include the 45-minute claim.

A parliamentary committee Monday cleared Campbell of any wrongdoing in the preparation of the document. (Full story)

The government has acknowledged that the 45-minute reference came from a single source. However, it said that source was thought to be reliable.

"I believe now that the BBC should apologize ... They should have the grace to acknowledge that they got it wrong," Straw told reporters Monday.

"The central and most damaging allegation against the government, that we inserted the 45-minutes intelligence into the dossier whilst knowing it to be untrue and against the wishes of the intelligence agencies, has been shown to be false," he said.

"Not a single committee member, having heard all the evidence both publicly and privately, has found that the BBC's central and damaging allegation was true."

Straw added: "There is no doubt whatsoever that the decision to go to war was justified."

However, the BBC said in a statement Monday that its report drew attention to the lack of proper research that went into preparing the dossier.

"It is because of BBC journalism that the problems surrounding the 45-minute claim have come to light and been given proper public attention," the public broadcaster said.

"We note that the committee was deeply divided on the role Alastair Campbell played in the compilation of the September dossier and only reached a decision which supported his position on the casting vote of the Labour chairman."

Richard Sambrook, the BBC's director of news, acknowledged that the report on the 45-minute claim was based on a single anonymous source.

But he added the that source was "very senior and at the very heart of the compilation of this dossier."

Charles Kennedy, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the controversy surrounding the dossier shows the need for "an independent judicial inquiry."


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