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Britain's Parliamentary Report  A Mixed Outcome for Tony Blair - 2003-07-07

In Britain, a parliamentary committee has released a report Monday into whether the government misled lawmakers and the country to justify going to war in Iraq.

The conclusions drawn by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee provide both good and bad news for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

On the one hand, the report clears Mr. Blair's communications chief of improperly influencing the drafting of a controversial intelligence dossier. On the other, it sharply criticizes the government's handling of intelligence relating to Iraqi weapons.

The committee, with members from all parities, said a dossier published in September gave undue prominence to a claim that Iraq could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes. The body also questioned the accuracy of other information contained in that report.

The committee criticized a second government dossier, released in January, that included material gleaned from a graduate student's thesis posted on the internet. The committee said the government was wrong to plagiarize the work.

The Blair government's statements on the Iraqi threat have led to a bitter dispute between the government and the British Broadcasting Corporation.

A BBC report quoted an unidentified intelligence source as saying aides to the prime minister persuaded intelligence chiefs to insert the imminent threat reference in the September dossier to strengthen the case for war. Mr. Blair has called that assertion absurd.

Observers say the Parliament report is unlikely to change many attitudes, certainly not in the next few days. Mr. Blair is due to appear Tuesday before a parliamentary committee to answer questions on the issue.